In a season that is so rich with plays, several of which have not yet opened, one stands out among the rest. That is Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman, which is running through July 7th at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. So what makes a play, especially one on the scale of The Ferryman, become a hit on Broadway that audiences can't get enough of?
Plays often struggle to find an audience. And in a season with a total of 20 plays, both new works and revivals, there is nothing to guarantee that they'll all do well, especially because there are so many. But The Ferryman, which came direct from an incredibly well received run in London's West End, managed to receive widespread acclaim from the New York critics, and has made it onto more "Best of Theater" Lists (including my own) for 2018 than any other show.
At the center of the play is the Carney family, and this family is what ties the show together. Watching the story unfold, they feel like they are a real family. This speaks to not only the incredible performances every actor gives, but to Butterworth's writing. The dialogue and the little interactions between each member of the family ground it in a reality that is all about the beauty of human connection, the bonds that hold a family together, and the identities that make us who we are. As the audience we are fascinated by this family and their relationships. The performances given make it stunning to behold.
The cast, many of whom will play their final performances on February 17, make this story real. Butterworth's writing is nuanced, clever, and full of emotion, both happy and sad, as well as being beautifully detailed with every single character fully realized. Sam Mendes' brilliant direction brings the family and their relationships and personalities to the forefront of the story while Rob Howell's scenic and costume design bring even more life to the story that already is overflowing with love and life. When the play ends, you will only want to see it again. It is the most magnificent piece of theater currently running, and it is fully deserving of that title.