Thursday, November 1, 2018

Broadway Theater Review: The Ferryman

The company. Photo: Joan Marcus
The Ferryman
© 2018 Joan Mar
The Ferryman
By Jez Butterworth
Directed by Sam Mendes.
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
It's 1981 in Northern Ireland and the happy Carney clan has gathered for the harvest, but the local priest (Charles Dale) and an ominous visitor  from the IRA (Stuart Graham) threaten their happy celebrations. The family finally discovers what happened to their beloved Seamus, who disappeared more 20 years ago, leaving behind his wife, Caitlyn (Laura Donnelly) and son, Oison (Rob Malone). 

They stayed on with Seamus's brother Quinn (Paddy Considine) and his invalid wife, Mary (Genevieve O'Reilly) and their seven children (one of whom is a baby who charms the entire audience). Filling out the household, in which playwright Jez Butterworth evokes the best of the eclectic family of You Can't Take It with You, are humorous Uncle Pat (an engaging Mark Lambert), not to be confused with Aunt Pat (Dearbhla Molloy) and Aunt Maggie Far Away (Fionnula Flanagan), the elderly aunt who entertains the children with her adventures in other times and places as she fades in and out of dementia while parked just off the action in her wheelchair. 

A slow-witted Englishman named Tom Kettle (Justin Edwards) and some visiting Corcoran cousins, including Shane (Tom Glynn-Carney), who might have ties with Seamas's disappearance, add to the tension -- and the crowd on stage. Rounding out the ensemble are Dean Ashton, Glynis Bell, Peter Bradbury, Trevor Harrison Braun, Sean Frank Coffey, Will Coombs, Gina Costigan,  Fra Fee, Carly Gold, Cooper Gomes, Holly Gould, Carla Langley, Matilda Lawler, Conor MacNeill, Michael McArthur, Willow McCarthy, Colin McPhillamy, Bella May Mordus, Griffin Osborne, Brooklyn Shuck, Glenn Speers, Rafael West Vallés, and Niall Wright.

Sam Mendes directs the Royal Court Theatre production with excellence, setting an undercurrent of unrest despite the seemingly happy existence of the family, marked by singing, dancing (choreography by Scarlett Mackmin) and cute animals trained by William Berloni. But inside, dark secrets threaten to cloud the external. The ferryman, after all, is a reference to Caron, the mythologcal transporter of souls across the River Styx. A surprise twist at the end of the three-hour, 15 minute run will have you gasping.

Rob Howell helps create the atmosphere with scenic and costume design, aided by Peter Mumford;s lighting design), Nick Powell's sound design and original music.

More information:
The Ferryman opened at The Royal Court in May 2017 and was the fastest selling play in the theater’s history. The sold-out show transferred to the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End. In London, The Ferryman won three 2018 Olivier Awards, including Best New Play (marking Butterworth’s second Olivier win), Best Actress Donnelly and Best Director  Mendes (marking his fourth Olivier win). 

The Ferryman runs at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th St., NYC.

Additional credits:
Tim Hoare (associate director), Benjamin Endsley Klein (resident director), Campbell Young Associates (hair, wigs and makeup design), Terry King (UK fight director), Thomas Schall (US fight director), Majella Hurley (UK dialect coach), and Deborah Hecht (US dialect coach).

-- Language
-- Violence
-- God's name taken in vain

Listen to my review of The Ferryman on radio:

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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- 2022 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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