Reviews are in for David Hare’s new play Straight Line Crazy, directed by Nicholas Hytner at the Bridge Theatre starring Ralph Fiennes.
They are pretty mixed with an absolute rave from infrequent The Guardian reviewer Mark Lawson, solid reviews from the Telegraph, Times, Stage and Evening Standard, but less positive notices from i News and the Independent.
The new play is about the 40 year reign of New York building titan Robert Moses (Ralph Fiennes), manipulating everyone around him, including government and politicians, through a mix of guile, charm and intimidation.
Joining Ralph Fiennes in the play are Alisha Bailey (Mariah Heller), Samuel Barnett (Ariel Porter), David Bromley (Stamford Fergus), Al Coppola (Walter McQuade), Siobhán Cullen (Finnuala Connell), Ian Kirkby (Lewis Mumford), Alana Maria (Shirley Hayes), Dani Moseley (Carol Ames), Guy Paul (Henry Vanderbilt), Helen Schlesinger (Jane Jacobs), Mary Stillwaggon Stewart (Nicole Sawyer) and Danny Webb (Governor Al Smith).
The creative team of Straight Line Crazy includes direction by Nicholas Hytner, designs by Bob Crowley, lighting by Jessica Hung Han Yun, sound by George Dennis and music by George Fenton.
Straight Line Crazy runs at the Bridge Theatre until 18 June 2022.
Check out reviews from all of the major UK press, including the Evening Standard, Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail and Times.
Straight Line Crazy reviews
"Ralph Fiennes enthrals as the man who shaped New York"
"Fiennes heads an electrifying cast in David Hare’s dynamic portrait of Robert Moses, an aggressive yet visionary urban planner who refused to back down"
"Nicholas Hytner’s populous production, with multi-location sets by Bob Crowley, continues the director’s trick, at his new venue, of somehow carrying on as if he has the budgets and resources previously available to him at the National."
"This is Hare’s most dramatically gripping and politically thoughtful play since The Absence of War three decades ago and provides another acting triumph for Fiennes which, in scenes where the urban monarch broods and rages over maps of his American kingdom, is a preview of the King Lear that is surely soon to come."
"Ralph Fiennes taps into his inner Pacino"
"David Hare’s play about New York city planner Robert Moses doesn’t represent the best work of anyone involved"
"A barnstorming, scenery-chewing Ralph Fiennes anchors David Hare’s new play about Robert Moses, who created parks for New York’s poor in the 1920s and by 1955 was ready to sacrifice Manhattan to the car. It’s a polished, witty, impeccably researched work but overly reliant on placing obstacles – plutocrats, politicians, colleagues, activists – in front of the Moses bulldozer. Nicolas Hytner’s production is by turns energetically brash and terribly baggy. Was the autocratic Moses a hero or villain? That’s up to us."
"Uneven tale of all-powerful planner fails to reach heights"
"Much like Hare’s 1980s press satire, Pravda, Straight Line Crazy is an uneven, often didactic play that is held together by a compelling, larger-than-life central performance. Ralph Fiennes gives us an imperious empire-builder who created some beautiful edifices, but also believed that more expressways were the solution to just about every urban problem."
"My way, or the highway, for Fiennes the megalomaniac"
"Ralph Fiennes had better watch his back. Terrific as he is in David Hare's new play about New York's megalomaniac, 20th-century town planner Robert Moses, he's matched by a blistering turn from Danny Webb, as Moses's boss, New York State Governor Al Smith. It's the kind of cameo for which actors would cheerfully kill."
"Nicholas Hytner's production is brisk and energetic on Bob Crowley's pine box set, while George Fenton's film noir chase music quickens the pulse between scenes."
"Ralph Fiennes shines – but this lumpen play is, frankly, a bit boring"
"David Hare’s New York-set polemic on gentrification has a great true story to work with – but it is heavy on the declamatory and light on actual drama"
"Directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Ralph Fiennes – both regular Hare collaborators – it is heavy on the declamatory and the dialectic, light on actual drama."
"Hare’s treatment of the few black characters – black and Hispanic New Yorkers were disproportionately affected by Moses’s influence – is especially cursory. For all Fiennes’s energy, the whole thing feels inert: a two-dimensional interplay of underdeveloped ideas."
"Ralph Fiennes exudes brute force as New York's master builder"
"The actor captures the muscularity of Robert Moses in a fascinating but flawed new play by David Hare"
"Hare, or Hytner, could have divided the lead between two actors, one younger - conveying the residual dynamism of a Yale-man intent on changing the world – with Fiennes the battle-hardened operator. That might make the trajectory clearer, and with the star turning 60 this year, you don’t quite get the initial sense of a radical upstart, brazenly inveigling his way into the monied home of the tycoon Henry Vanderbilt, and demanding the elites of Long Island yield."
"Hare has alighted on a topic of monumental fascination. Call me crazy but Netflix should snap it up."
"Big, lively characters"
"Maybe the biggest flaw is the underuse of Helen Schlesinger as Jane Jacobs. Often mentioned in the same breath as Moses, the journalist became his nemesis in the 1960s. Hare foregrounds her at the beginning of the play and then almost entirely forgets about her. Deeply examined and given more space, these elements would elevate the play."
"Meanwhile, Fiennes eats it all up. He moves monumentally, one great slab, like the slabs of concrete Moses erected across New York, his spine always straight, a tower block of a man, relishing the great declamatory chunks Hare has supplied."
"It’s the cast, really, that sustains an interesting, flawed portrait of a man who built bridges as fast as he burned them."
"David Hare’s new historical drama is unsubtle and sluggish"
"Ralph Fiennes stars as Robert Moses, the man who once unofficially ran New York – but his story just isn’t that interesting"
"The fundamental problem with Straight Line Crazy is that while Moses is an interesting enough man, we’re talking about roads. It’s not the most fascinating of backdrops anyway, but Hare feels determined to make the topic even harder to engage with. Every scene could be a fair chunk shorter, while the dialogue is a weird mix of broad platitudes and very specific jargon, which isn’t easy to keep track of. In general, it’s a slog to get through."
"A story about the man who created modern New York"
"Ralph Fiennes seems to alter his entire physique to play Robert Moses, the man who created modern New York. Swaggering around the stage like a grizzly bear in a suit, he embodies a man described as being 'on the side of the angels but uses the methods of the Devil'."
"Ralph Fiennes takes on middle-class women"
"David Hare’s play makes town planning exciting"
"Danny Webb does a strong turn as the governor of New York. Siobhán Cullen and Samuel Barnett play Moses’s sidekicks. We hear of, but never meet, Moses’s wife. Pity. Seeing him at home might have helped us to know the man better. Hare never quite nails the obsession with straight lines. Was it megalomania, unyielding logic, something weirder? Or was it that new-world fervour, which London left-wingers never quite fathom, for the political self-sufficiency of the motorcar and the open, straight road?"
"‘Ralph Fiennes Plays Robert Moses in David Hare’s Talky New Play"
"Everything is elegantly staged by Hytner on Crowley’s expansive office set, and the play’s underlying themes are resonant of what was a fascinatingly changing world. But Hare’s structural choices have resulted in a play in which everyone earnestly says what they mean and means what they say. Subtext, the playwright’s device for gluing audiences to character, situation and a sense of dramatic sympathy, is almost entirely absent."
"Written by the English playwright David Hare, this exposition-heavy drama brings Ralph Fiennes roaring back to the stage as Moses"
"Hare chooses two decisive points in Moses’ life to tell a story of vaulting ambition that devolves into the madness hinted at in the play’s title"
"Fiennes has enough barrel-chested authority to sustain interest in what might otherwise seem arcane. You almost wish that the play, and Nicholas Hytner’s adroit production, were longer and amplified the material more"