Lupita Nyong’o Stars in Play about the Liberian Civil War
This past weed, Eclipsed opened at the John Golden Theatre. It had been running in previews since February 23, 2016, after an acclaimed Off-Broadway run at the Public Theater. The play is written by Danai Gurira, who has participated in one Broadway production previously, as an actress in the 2009 production of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. She is also well known for her acting work in the AMC television show “The Walking Dead.” Her previous works as playwright include In the Continuum, which won an Obie Award in 2006, and Familiar, which played at the Yale Repertory Theatre last year. Eclipsed is her Broadway debut as playwright. The show is directed by Liesl Tommy, who is also a first-time Broadway director, and whose previous directing credits include August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Lynn Nottage’s Ruined. Among the cast, Lupita Nyong’o is by far the best known, having recently won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 12 Years a Slave. However, the play does not showcase Nyong’o’s acting talents alone, as the ensemble cast also includes Pascale Armand (The Trip to Bountiful), Akosua Busia (Mule Bone), Zainab Jah (Ms. Gurira’s The Convert), and Saycon Sengbloh (Holler if Ya Hear Me, Motown the Musical).
Upon opening, the reviews for Eclipsed were extremely positive. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times called the play “soul-searing,” and deems Lupita Nyong’o one of the most radiant actors seen on Broadway in recent years. Jeremy Gerard of Deadline calls the play “a major achievement,” and appreciates how its humor serves the seriousness of the subject matter. Jesse Green from Vulture calls the show a “must-see production,” expressing gratitude that Nyong’o’s fame allowed this show to find a larger audience. Mark Kennedy from Associated Press agrees that the play must not be missed, and appreciates the talents of its “true ensemble.” In addition, Mark Windman from AM New York admits the play is not easy to watch, but that it is truly important for the audience to see, and that the performances are exceptional. All in all, the critics found this play to be an important piece of work with excellent performances, which is why it is a shame that the box office has not responded in kind.
Box Office Still Has Room for Growth
A full week after opening, the box office still only moved up by $80,428 from the week before. That week, the week ending March 13, 2016, the show brought in $421,319, which represents just 51.35% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $198.00, the average paid admission was $74.05. Furthermore, the average audience capacity was 88.7%, which is actually a decrease from the previous week’s audience capacity of 94.3%. With only 14 preview performances, the Broadway production of Eclipsed did not have a lot of time to build word of mouth before opening. Although the Off-Broadway production received excellent buzz, the audience for Broadway is more expansive and reaching them requires a more forceful strategy. A problem may also be the price point, and perhaps Nyong’o’s fame alone is not a decisive reason for the audience to pay top dollar to see this play. In any case, the show is running until June 19, 2016, and hopefully box office will steadily build as the show’s reputation spreads.
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