Friday, March 27, 2015

Off-Broadway Review: Placebo

By Melissa James Gibson
Directed by Daniel Aukin
Playwrights Horizons
Through April 5

What's It all About?
Louise (Carrie Coon  -- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, "Gone Girl," TV's “The Leftovers”) is working on a randomized double-blind Placebo-controlled test for a new drug for female arousal. Subjects in the sturdy, like Mary (a charming Florencia Lozano), sign up in the hopes that they will get the real pill, and not a placebo. It seems like Louise herself might benefit form the drug she helped create. Things aren't all that exciting at home with her husband, Jonathan (William Jackson Harper, who delighted in A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick at Playwrights), though she doesn't seem to be aware of it. When she connects with another PHd candidate at work named Tom (Alex Hurt), sparks fly.

Things deteriorate at home for Louise and Jonathan, who asks her to move out so he can work on his own thesis without interruption. Mary, who experienced awakened sexual interest after starting the study, suspects that it might have been all in her head because she's lost interest in her husband again. She's pretty sure she is receiving the placebo. At least she hopes she is, because if she isn't interested while receiving the real drug, what hope does she have?

What Are the Highlights?
Lozano makes us root for her, even though her part is minor. Hurt is amusing as the socially awkward Tom who wins us over with some vending machine antics.

What Are the Lowlights?
Maybe it's self fulfilling -- the play is a placebo for the real thing. It doesn't have the desired effect of creating characters we care about and a plot that' keeps our interest. The setting of office and home together on the stage (David Zinn designs) doesn't work. Maybe the point is that career and personal life overlap, but seeing elements of the other location in scenes was confusing. Some long moments when Louise sings Louise sings “Placebo Domino in regione vivorum,” Vespers for the Dead when her mother dies. That what placebos -- professional mourners in the Middle Ages sang, you see. Sorry, just not feeling this forced moment.

More Information:
Aukin collaborated with Gibson on her play This at at Playwrights in 2009.  Lighting design by Matt Freysound design by Ryan Rumery

Placebo plays through April 5 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St, NYC. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm and 7:30. Tickets:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Sexual Dialogue

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2024 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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