Ohio State Murders brings together three incredible luminaries: actress Audra McDonald, director Kenny Leon and playwright Adrienne Kennedy and the end result is a wow. Audra is on her way to earning yet another Tony with a subtle, heartbreaking and varied performance of both young and old Suzanne. And Leon handles Kennedy’s complex script with absolute finesse.
The New York Times Review of Ohio State Murders
[T]he 75-minute play, first performed in 1991, is [neither] coldblooded [n]or didactic. Rather, in Kenny Leon’s piercing production, starring Audra McDonald in another performance ripped from her gallery of harrowing women, it is painful both in the story it tells and in the immense effort expended to tell it properly. … The older and younger characters are usually split between two actors, but Kennedy has given McDonald permission to play both. It’s a lesson in itself to watch her shift between them. … In neither role does McDonald have the support of ordinary dramaturgy. There is virtually no dialogue in “Ohio State Murders,” because what happened to Sue is less important than how Suzanne tries, as you feel she has tried for decades, to understand it. … Leon, too, works smartly against the grain of the play. In thoughtfully mimed vignettes, he shows us that the other characters, beautifully enacted if with little to say, are not just puppets of Suzanne’s memory but living creatures with their own struggles. … These warming, even sentimental additions do not detract from the intellectual integrity of Kennedy’s conception any more than McDonald’s astonishing access to tragic feeling diminishes the prickly oddness of the characters. To my mind these are instead enhancements, forcing us to experience the play’s central themes as internal conflicts and not just social ones.
Variety Review of Ohio State Murders
It may be easy to take for granted that Audra McDonald, with six Tony Awards to her name, is capable of performances that creep delicately into your psyche and rattle around there as if clearing bats from its darkest recesses. A meticulous cartographer of the heart and mind, she charts human interiors that feel previously unknown, or, in the case of “Ohio State Murders,” which opened on Broadway Thursday night, unimaginable before she brings them to life. … Leon’s production presents a bold, and unmistakable, visual representation of Kennedy’s argument for literature and imagination as both proof of human horror and an essential escape from it. … By any obvious measure, Kennedy’s arrival on Broadway in her ninth decade is long overdue. Commercial theater has not generally been the most fertile ground for daring, confrontational work that spotlights the voices and experiences of the most marginalized. But when an exception takes root, with a team of artists as visionary as these, it’s certainly worth the wait.
New York Post Review of Ohio State Murders
[The play is] an absorbing, observant and admirably peculiar character study with stinging parallels to today. … While we learn about the deaths early on and there are some horrific shocks along the way, that’s simply not the play that Kennedy has written. But she has crafted a formidable acting challenge in the form of Suzanne — a renowned writer who’s finally confronting her tragic past — who is played in a captivating tug-of-war by Audra McDonald. … McDonald smartly finds contrarian moments for her careful professorial facade to crack and each and every one is affecting. When her gleaming face suddenly turns hurt, cold, angry or lifeless, it has a big, wordless punch. … Kennedy’s play is not one to love or even necessarily be bowled over by. Still, her drama gives us a chill, some questions to ponder and a leading performance that’s a wow.