Ethan McSweeny /Selected Press (chronologically) 06.16
“Ethan McSweeny seems to have a Midas touch. It’s not that the plays he directs turn into
gold but they do sail across the footlights with a vibrant, magnetic sheenThe wunderkind
director who made his Broadway debut before some directors finish graduate school, is earning
plaudits for a flurry of new productions…Throughout his career, McSweeny has moved from
classics to contemporary dramas to premieres with ease…His scrupulous attention to the
melding of design, pacing, and performance and facility with which he presents them, feels
crisp, vibrant, and cinematic.”
Jaime Kleiman, American Theatre
McSweeny is revealing himself to be the kind of directorial prodigy we read about in
biographies of such auteurs as Robert Wilson and Peter Sellers. Except that he does not
impose a vision or conceit on a play; he amplifies themes in the work.”
Rohan Preston, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“McSweeny is not only one of our most successful theatre directors, but equally one of
our most important, and for a man who zoomed a few years ago past 40, he continues to
sport the aura of a modern Boy Wonder — an Orson Welles with much more in his future
than commercials for Paul Masson … It’s not just that he is — as Peter Marks characterized him
in his Washington Post review of The Tempest — a “classical imagist,” although he does possess
that rare mixture of deep affinity for text and a fanciful eye. He has proven to be fluid in his
choices, negotiating between the classical and the edgy-new. For every classic, in other words,
he can stage an edgy (Kate Fodor’s 100 Saints You Should Know), or something highly edgy
(Jason Grote’s 1001), or else versions of plays so edgy they’re standing almost on a ledge (Noah
Haidle’s Mr. Marmalade).”
The Clyde Fitch Report
McSweeny…has pursued such an eclectic career as a director that he himself is hard to
figure out…Creating his own path seems characteristic of the man. “I don’t tend to do well with
well-trod systems,” he agrees…McSweeny has maintained a peripatetic and inquisitive career...
[which] seems to illustrate the creative potential of being unsettled…he can always be an
outside eye.”
Peter Crawley, The Irish Times
by Deidre Kinahan
The Studio Theater • March – May 2016
Sets: Debora Booth Costumes: Philip Whitcomb • Lights: Scott Bolman • Sound: Palmer
“The acting in Deirdre Kinahan’s Moment at Studio Theatre is so sharp it’s like seeing a
play in a live equivalent of high-def … Director Ethan McSweeny, better known in
Washington for his bigger shows with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, handles “Moment”
with a delicate touch in Studio’s coziest venue, the Milton Theatre. The result is acting that
never hits a wrong note and is as absorbingly detailed as [the] humble and functional-
looking kitchen set … The evening’s heat comes from Emily Landham’s resentment as Niamh,
who works in a local publishing house and enters with a hopeful beau named Fin trailing her (a
wonky and solicitous Avery Clark). As Ruth, Hannah Yelland is superb as the outsider trying to
charm her way in, and she and Albrink — who creates a nuanced portrait of a damaged man
trying to move on — have a lovely fragile rapport. Caroline Bootle Pendergast and Ciaran Byrne
supply spirited turns as the good-time couple Ciara (sister of Niamh and Nial) and her husband,
the simple-spirited Dave … The most profound instance of vanishing inside a character is
Dearbhla Molloy’s utterly natural performance as Teresa, the addled matriarch of the
clan. There is nothing flashy about Teresa, yet Molloy is subtly, authoritatively gripping. The
believability is absolute as this long-suffering mother waves away attention yet fusses to keep
her almost disintegrated family together just for an afternoon.
Nelson Pressley, The Washington Post
“One of the strongest theatrical experiences I've had this season … in his Studio Theatre
debut, Ethan McSweeny (best known to Washington audiences for his work at Shakespeare
Theatre Company) directs a group of uniformly talented actors who give life to the story in a
way that allows the underlying tension build slowly, but deliberately and realistically … This is
a production that will stay with you long after the performance ends.”
Jennifer Perry, Broadway World
A master class in complicated characterization …what follows is an examination of the
tricky nature of memory, the long-term effects of tragedy, and the complicated notion of being a
Jessica Pearson, DC Theatre Scene
At the explosive end of Moment’s first act … Studio Theatre’s penetrating production of
Deirdre Kinahan’s lacerating Moment – a knife-edged night of reopened old wounds – the
audience I watched the play with sat a long moment in shell-shocked silence. I doubt any of
us knew what hit us … To say this family drama is fascinating is an understatement!”
John Stoltenberg, DC Metro Theatre Arts
Irish playwright Deirdre Kinahan’s Moment offers us, without hyperbole or melodrama,
the family forever marked by the wound of anger and hostility; and as those wounds open
in the play so they open across our violent landscape … Intimate, funny, and insightful,
Moment takes us into the psychological terrain, not of the perpetrator nor the victim of that
aggression, but of the familial bystanders who, though invisible, nonetheless suffer lifelong
consequences … Ethan McSweeny directed Moment, finding within it an exquisitely natural
pacing, punctuated by sharp, clarifying “moments”.
Robert Michael Oliver, DCMTA
Music by Luna Pearl Woolf, Libretto by Caitlin Vincent
Washington National Opera • January 2016
Conductor: Timothy Myers • Sets: Daniel Conway • Costumes: Lynly Saunders • Lights: AJ
Guban • Choreography: Vicki Holt Takamine
With this work, Washington National Opera proves conclusively that finding new stories about
the American experience and presenting them with the highest caliber of young singers is a core
mission of the companyBetter Gods brings a mostly unknown chapter in Hawaiian history
onto the stage at the Kennedy Center, telling the story of Queen Lili’uokalani, the island nation’s
last monarch, with dignity and high artistic values … Director Ethan McSweeny gets it just
right for the work and where it is … I imagine the Hawaiian “better gods” are happy.”
Susan Galbraith, DC Theatre Scene
This fascinating and heart wrenching story of Better Gods is a production worth seeing
The touches of Hawaiian authenticity, and the tremendous strength of the performers, make [for]
a powerful experience … Woolf’s new and original composition uses Hawaiian instruments to
add an audible authenticity to the story.”
Kendall Mostafavi, DC Metro Theater Arts
“Composed with ethnical truth by Luna Pearl Woolf, Better Gods is a stirring portrait of a
determined Queen who must decide whether she should give up her crown or her soul … The
story, as told with brutal honest through Caitlin Vincent’s stirring libretto, is a bold choice to be
told at the Kennedy Center ... Ms. Woolf’s gorgeous score is underlined by the use of traditional
Hawaiian chants and her score utilized authentic instruments like the nose flute, Kala’au
(percussive sticks), and Ili’ili (castanets), that are native to the island. The Washington National
Opera has always been a champion for young artists, both on stage and off. The WNO’s
American Opera Initiative’s premier production of Better Gods is a testimony to that.”
Keith Tittermary, Opera World
by Thomas Bradshaw
The Flea Theatre/American Theatre Company co-world premiere • September – December 2015
Sets & Lights: Brian Sidney Bembridge • Costumes: Andrea Lauer • Sound: Mikhail Fikshel
and Miles Polaski
Engaging and Unsettling … it provides a sharply legible index to the mind and method of an
original playwright who refuses to embrace easy or consoling answers to the puzzles called
human beings.”
Ben Brantley, The New York Times
An urban dramedy slathered in Bradshaw sauce, Fulfillment gets a handsome and swift-
moving production from Ethan McSweeny … the cast is likable and very game, with Flood
and Akinnagbe showing genuine chemistry (and heat) and Jeff Biehl coolly creepy as the
neighbor from hell.”
David Cote, TimeOut
"A thought-provoking and powerful evening at the theater … With direction by Ethan
McSweeny, Thomas Bradshaw's world premiere play Fulfillment, examines the theme of agency
and the quest to live a "successful" life. This compelling construct makes for an intense, often
uncomfortable, and extremely provocative 90 minutes on the stage.
Rachel Weinberg, Broadway World
“In Thomas Bradshaw's acerbic new play Fulfillment — now at the Flea in a crisp production
by Ethan McSweeny — a successful lawyer struggles to find inner peace and external rewards
… Bradshaw's modern-day Job story illustrates the covert racism endemic in elite circles."
Jacob Gallagher-Ross, The Village Voice
Playwright Thomas Bradshaw is an equal opportunity misanthrope with a tabloid
mentality. In one way or another his principal subjects are race and morality (or immorality) in
America … Not surprisingly, the play’s best scene finds a couple in ferocious fornication
(“choreographed” by Yehuda Duenyas – talk about a “specialty”), only to be hilariously undone
by a psychopathic neighbor’s purposeful and continual attempts to torment his new African
American neighbor with a barrage of industrial strength noise. Mikhil Fiskel’s musical scoring,
and his sound design collaboration with Miles Polaski, could not be more inspired.”
Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times
“An excellent play by one of America's most audacious scribes … the latest in Bradshaw's
highly provocative series of dramas about the perils of intimacy; the complexity of being an
African-American in the allegedly modern, allegedly enlightened world; and the ubiquity of self-
loathing, loneliness and desperation among affluent, amply educated urban professionals …
McSweeny's production is dynamic, visually imaginative and never dull for so much as a
second … and it does have its moments of enlightenment (Mikhail Fiksel and Miles
Polaski's sound design is a sensual feast). Go see it by all means — it is a most stimulating
new play.”
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
by Brian Friel, after Turgenev
The Gate Theatre • July – September 2015
Sets: Francis O’Connor • Costumes: Peter O’Brien • Lights: Sinead McKenna • Sound: Denis
“Mesmerizingit's rare you leave a theatre unsure whether to laugh or cry - or both.
From raucous laughter to tears, comedy to tragedy, passion to toxic jealousy and deception, the
entertaining play also somehow manages to be an in-depth study of the complexity of
relationships and the roller coaster ride of emotion that is love … The standout performance of
the show is Aislin McGuckin as the demanding, passionate, selfish, cunning and deeply
unhappy Natalya. She is spell-binding as she acts out the part of a dissatisfied, self-obsessed
and jealous woman on the brink of a breakdownFriel squeezes A Month in the Country
into just over two hours of superb theatre and each and every member of this stellar cast
plays a blinder. “
Alana Fearon, Daily Mirror
Love is a game with uncertain rules and ruinous consequences in Brian Friel’s delicately
amusing and elegiac version of Turgenev’s play. Passions run high on the Islayev estate …
they brood, multiply, and finally erupt. To this end, Francis O’Connor’s intriguing set collapses
the interior and exterior spaces, multiplying the proscenium of the Gate into a series of retreating
frames, he turns the theatre into a hall of mirrors, allowing trees to break up through the
floorboards … this wilderness is ready to reclaim us. Director Ethan McSweeny maintains a
stately pace for a drama a romantic and linguistic entanglements, one that smuggles the
radical energy of passion into a distinctly Irish wordplay. All around … love is a form of
madness: a “catastrophe” that makes “the unreasonable perfectly reasonable.” It even sends
both Natalya and Michel skittering into tormented, split-psyche monologues, unable to reconcile
their public and private selves.”
Peter Crawley, The Irish Times
“Turgenev’s play preceded Chekhov’s great works by half a century, but in Friel’s hands the two
become contemporaries … The play is, in a sense, daringly superficial, its very superficiality a
comment on the milieu we are watching. It hints at a terrifying void beneath the rigid social
hierarchies and customs … Director Ethan McSweeny keeps Friel’s sense of unbearable
lightness … Francis O’Connor’s set, mixing trees with interior settings, hints at the
breakdown of the system that has preserved the estate, ensuring its return to wilderness.”
Alan O’Riordan, Irish Examiner
★★★★… A memorable productionMark O’Regan adds another fine understated
performance to his list of recent comic work, getting the tone just right for the dodgy doctor
with the bad jokes, almost making Shpigelsky likeable, especially in his wooing of the family
friend Lizaveta … The most powerful dramatic moments of the evening were provided by
Nick Dunning as Natalya’s husband in the scene in which his eyes are opened to the emotionally
dead world he has provided for his wife. His transformation from a well-meaning man unaware
of his situation to one faced with the truth about his life and family is a formidable piece of
Michael Moffatt, The Irish Mail on Sunday
Perfect Gate material … Mark O’Regan does a brilliant job as the joker Doctor Schigelsky …
Caiomhe O’Malley as young Vera goes on a wonderful journey from giggly kid to mature
young woman after the smack of betrayal. She becomes the centre of the play. Francis
O’Connor’s set is a triumph … Costumes by Peter O’Brien are supremely elegant.”
Katy Hayes, The Irish Independent
Enchanting … While Turgenev’s play is usually described as a comedy of manners, Friel has
focused on passion as obsession. It is Natalya’s (a striking Aislin McGuckin) love for the
younger man that drives the play’s emotion. An arresting cast is bolstered by beautiful
costumes, and set and Ethan McSweeny’s calm direction.”
Eithne Shortall, The Sunday Times
Shakespeare Theatre Company December 2014 - January 2015
Sets: Lee Savage Costumes: Jennifer Moeller Lights: Christopher Akerlind •
Original Music: Jennifer Geiring Sound: Nevin Steinberg • Puppets: James Ortiz
"Ethan McSweeny, whose strength as a classical imagist has been on display in the past ...
here offers a wise and alluring take on Shakespeare, a Tempest of white-sand beaches under a
haze-shrouded sun, of gods as monumental puppets manipulated by billowy sprites."
Peter Marks, The Washington Post
"A brilliant new vision of the play ... director Ethan McSweeny masterfully blends the plot
lines together ... this Tempest locates the drama in a stunning verbal and visual simplicity ...
[in] a refreshingly new way."
Barbara Mackay, Theatermania
"McSweeny's productions at Shakespeare Theatre Company have become must-see events.
From The Persians, through The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer
Night's Dream, and now The Tempest [his] work is by turns ambitious, showy, electrifying
and spectacular. His attentive wonderworks refresh the appeal of Shakespeare's work while
retaining the fidelity and beauty of the language."
Roy Maurer, DC Theatre Scene
"McSweeny offers audiences a visually rich, complex Tempest that has its share of magical
moments, but which at its core is unvarnished by sentiment ... [his] gift as a director is to leave
room for those of us who see Shakespeare's world (like our own) as a great deal more
Andrew White, Broadway World
"A high-water mark ... beautifully realized by Ethan McSweeny, the show is a powerful
reminder of the reasons to go to the theatre in the first place."
Landon Randolph, DCist
by Oscar Wilde
The Gate Theatre • March – May 2014
Sets: Francis O’Connor • Costumes: Peter O’Brien • Lights: Sinead McKenna • Sound: Denis
Irish Times Award nomination for Best Costumes
Irish Times on Sunday
In Ethan McSweeny’s wonderfully vivacious production, the sparkle never flags and
there’s an almost perfect balance between the play’s lightness of tone and its serious import
… There are brilliantly observed performances throughout, even as minor a character as Phipps –
the ‘ideal butler’ – played with delightful comic precision by Simon Coury … Peter O’Brien’s
costumes offer material equivalents to the production’s scintillating wit. In tandem with Francis
O’Connor’s deftly designed and beautifully versatile set, a kind of reflective glasshouse
suggestive of a hall of mirrors, we have an ideal production of Wilde’s thought-provoking
John McKeown, The Irish Independent
Appearances are deceptive in Oscar Wilde’s 1895 melodrama … it follows that director
Ethan McSweeny’s new production for the Gate should open with ironic blast of Rule
Brittania! before recognizing a more fragile world of surfaces … Francis O’Connor’s
encircling mirrored walls (an appropriate showroom for Peter O’Brien’s sumptuous costumes)
suggest a society high on self-regard and somehow perilously short on reflection … [Rea’s] Lord
Goring is allowed a nimble physicality where others are mired in Victorian stiffness. When
Wilde’s mechanical plotting begins to creak under incriminating letters, fortuitous
discoveries and unmasking contrivances, McSweeny and Rea decide to match that
artificiality with slapstick. It works surprisingly well, as befits a ‘thoroughly modern
Peter Crawley, Irish Times
★★★★, Wilde’s 1895 play may have a faint whiff of the passé about it, yet it remains
doggedly modern. Its dissection of public morality … is hugely relevant to our own age of
political corruption while its interrogation of the illusory nature of ‘character’ is mercilessly
amusing … All four leads put in keen and nuanced turns, with Rea unearthing a pleasant
vulnerability in Goring.”
Padraic Killeen, Irish Examiner
Like a precursor to ‘House of Cards’ … director Ethan McSweeny mines the text for its
comic potential and, in ably exploring the ways in which the Victorian world shies away
from its own reflection, he also holds a mirror up to our own.”
Daragh Reddin, Metro Herald
Golden Theatre, Broadway • September – November 2013
Produced by Daryl Roth & Eva Price
By John Grisham • adapt by Rupert Holmes • Sets: James Noone • Costumes: David Woolard •
Lights: Jeff Croiter • Sound: Lindsay Jones • Video: Jeff Sugg
“A sturdy ensemble production helmed by Ethan McSweeny, this courtroom drama feels
as if it were made for an earlier, less cynical era … James Noone’s expressive set, made
almost entirely of polished wood and sensuously curved like the staves of a barrel, has the
mellow glow (provided by lighting designer Jeff Croiter) you’d expect to find in an old country
courthouse in the Deep South … McSweeny and his first-rate design team have gone for a
timeless quality — no doubt to suggest that racism, in one ugly form or another, is always with
us….If that sounds exactly like the irrational fury that makes Tea Party extremists resist
anything and everything proposed by a black president … well, so it is.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety
A thriller of the sort rarely seen on Broadway these days, John Grisham’s A Time to Kill
brings a satisfying, if unsettling, courtroom drama to the Golden Theatre with an engaging cast
playing juicy dramatic characters in a lurid tale spiked with a mild frisson of sex.”
Jeremy Gerard,
McSweeny keeps the plot wheels turning…aided by the versatility of Noone’s elegant design
and Jeff Croiter’s textured lighting, lending a cinematic fluidity to the scene transitions.”
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
The focus is squarely on the courtroom, which director Ethan McSweeny and scenic
designer James Noone have accommodated with a turntable set that pulls us into the action
…We watch the defendant, Carl Lee Hailey, as a jury would; and since he is played by the
magnificent John Douglas Thomson — who delivers the most fully realized performance here —
we are moved by his anguish, rage, obstinance and dignity … [Patrick Page] wraps himself in
Southern smarm, wielding an oily smile and lowering his voice to a fiendish basso croak … a
droll Tom Skerritt pops up as Jake's booze-addled mentor, while Law & Order alum and real-
life counselor Fred Dalton Thompson has a drily engaging turn as a no-nonsense judge. The
wonderful Tonya Pinkins and Chike Johnson bring as much as humanity as possible to the
roles of, respectively, Carl Lee's devastated wife and a black sheriff whose function is to embody
reason and decency … the crowd-pleasing A Time to Kill is more than justly served.
Elysa Gardner USA today
‘‘[John Douglas] Thompson lends a palpable weight and gravity to his performance as Carl
Lee, whose belief that his actions were justified makes him squirm with anguish at the idea
that he’ll hang for his crimes … Mr. Holmes … infuses the play with crisp humor … Much
of it concerns the antics of Lucien Wilbanks, the disbarred lawyer who is a mentor to Jake, and
who is played with appealingly laid-back good spirits by Tom Skerritt, nimbly engaging in a
little actorly petty thievery. Lucien’s horror at discovering he’s taken a big gulp of iced tea, when
he thought it was whiskey, earns one of the evening’s most robust laughs.”
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
“the atmosphere in director Ethan McSweeny’s crisp, polished production is consistently
Paul Burchall, Stage and Cinema
‘‘Perfectly cast … [Tom] Skerritt nicely pulls off a charming disgraced and drunken lawyer and
[Fred Dalton] Thompson is a sure-footed judge”
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press
by Tennessee Williams
Gate Theatre • July – September 2013
Sets: Lee Savage • Lights: Paul Keogan • Costumes: Joan O’Clery • Sound: Denis Clohessy
Winner of the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best Director
Best Leading Actress (Lia Williams)
Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Walker)
Nominated for three additional awards including Best Production, Best Scenic Design, and Best
Supporting Actor
★★★★Sunday Times
★★★★Evening Herald
★★★★Irish Mail on Sunday
★★★★Metro Herald
★★★★Sunday Business Post
★★★★Irish Daily Mail
“Ethan McSweeny’s gripping production at the Gate Theatre, however, is a model of
effective restraint … what is really at stake in McSweeny’s production is not just desire but two
different ways of seeing the world, as Blanche’s idealism is gradually eroded by Stanley’s
realism ... there isn’t a moment when it is less than compelling. In this fine production “an
hour isn’t just an hour, but a little piece of eternity”. !
Sara Keating, The Irish Times!
“No detail is too small in this excellent production directed by Ethan McSweeny, making his
directorial debut at The Gate, and what a way to begin…You will be hard pressed to find a
piece of theatre as good as this anywhere, anyplace … To use that old cliché, if you only see
one play this year, make sure it's this one. You will not be disappointed, as you realize that
this is the stuff of theatrical excellence. You will want to see it again. I do.”
Red Curtain Review
“It’s easy to make the mistake that Blanche is nothing but a pathetic, man-eating, manipulative,
soulless siren, yet despite all that, and more — her childish horror of ageing, and her ready
acknowledgment that more often than not, she plays fast and loose with the truth —the depth of
her decline is pure abjection, and is correctly put centre stage in this production, beautifully
orchestrated by director Ethan McSweeny. ‘Orchestrated’ because here, Williams’ dangerous
text is approached as a symphonyThat first silence is a revelation: the mark of a director
who knows how to pace the beats of a play, and since we are in for the long haul – three hours
and a bit – we are, thankfully, in calm, confident, creative hands. This idea of playing on the
musicality of the text, of emphasising its rhythms and movements, is further extrapolated
through the use of live songs performed by vocalist Esosa Ighodaro and Conor Sheil on clarinet.
Nominally employed to cover what could have been pace-destroying scene changes, the music
enlivens and underscores the atmosphere. We are in a very specific place…comprised of the
mournfully hopeful elegies of gospel and soul.”
Susan Conley, Irish Theatre Magazine
“American director Ethan McSweeny, whose début at the Gate the play is, manages to
beautifully orchestrate the classic play without losing any of its depth and fascination. … A
Streetcar Named Desire is without a doubt one of the highlights, if not the most spectacular
play, of this year’s theatre season in Dublin. Ethan McSweeny’s reputation as one of
theatre’s brightest stars is founded as he created a must-see play.”
Claire Fastner, The Journalist
“American director Ethan McSweeny subtly rebalances its characterizations and shifting
sympathies: instead of extreme polarization between the lead characters of Stanley Kowalski, his
pregnant wife, Stella, and her visiting sister, Blanche DuBois, we are shown a more complex and
affecting picture. “!
Helen Meany, The Guardian
“The Gate production is intriguing chiefly for the way in which Walker and Williams complicate
the received images and soften the contrasts. The drama they create is not one of stark
opposites but one of intertwined and interdependent personalities Indeed, one of the
many admirable things about Ethan McSweeny’s excellent current production at the Gate
Theatre in Dublin is the intelligent manner in which Garrett Lombard as Stanley stays out of the
way. He is, as Stanley must be, a powerful physical presence and a domineering bully. But his
performance sets its own proper limits. Lombard does not seek to occupy too much
psychological or emotional space. Stanley is what he is: an almost parodic expression of
primitive maleness.”
Fintan O’Toole, The Irish Times
The Shakespeare Theater • November 2012 – January 2013
Sets: Lee Savage • Costumes: Jennifer Moeller • Lights: Tyler Micoleau • Sound: Fitz Patton •
Movement: Peter Pucci
5 Helen Hayes Award Nominations including Best Production, Best Direction, Best Scenic
McSweeny, who has become artistic director Michael Kahn’s go-to guy for visual panache
(a beautiful The Persians) … stages the initial beckoning of the fairies…with breathtaking
cleverness: the flickering on of a ghost light on a bare stage … the entrance of Oberon is just as
enchanting: A door slides open, revealing Campbell in matinee-idol profile, set off by the whiteout of
a blizzard.”
Peter Marks, The Washington Post
“What elevates the show above so many others, however, is McSweeny’s boundless creativity
in dealing with the fairies and his deft hand with the rude mechanicals. Lee Savage’s set is
deceptively simple, [allowing] Puck and company to appear, disappear, and leap in the air, as if
by, well, magic…But this thoughtful, relatively risky take on a familiar classic is well worth
Sophie Gilbert, Washingtonian
“Director Ethan McSweeny uses a decrepit theater as the setting for his scintillating production
of A Midsummer Night's Dream for Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company, with the twist
that the fairies are just as enamored with stagecraft as the mortals are with theater…McSweeny
demonstrates an easy confidence with the play on many levels, proving himself just as
adept with the pageantry of the fairies' court as he is with the slapstick during the play-
Susan Berlin, Talkin’Broadway
“The Shakespeare Theatre Company has turned McSweeny loose to traffic in the magic of the
theatre that weaves its potent spell in Sidney Harman Hall. From the opening scene in the
court of Athens – circa late 1940s – to the final tableau’s fairy farewell, McSweeny’s
production evokes fantasy and wonder …When we see the world of the supernatural meld
with the world of the ruined playhouse, the magic of Shakespeare’s contrived world and
McSweeny’s production find welcome companions … there is no leftover prop or tattered
costume the fairies won’t take on as a found treasure … In a production with many delights,
director McSweeny’s finest achievement was his casting of the mechanicals.”
Jeffrey Walker, DC Theatre Scene!
“Whether you are a seasoned expert to Shakespeare or fresh newbie to his works,
Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is divinely
entertaining and a magnificent show to see.”
Grace Kim, DC Metro Theatre Arts
“What the production really seems to remind you of is a circus, a carnival, a sideshow, and
bits of the most excessive parts of operas that don’t involve music … it’s theater and show
business in all of its guises. It is, too, a dream we can swim in … Puck suggests that “we have
but slumbered here, while these visions did appear.” Fat chance of that. This Midsummer may
feel like a dream, but it’s a vivid dream we won’t soon forget.
Gary Tischler, The Georgetowner
by Christopher Hampton
The Guthrie Theatre • September – November 2012
Sets: Lee Savage • Costumes: Andrea Lauer • Lights: Robert Wierzel • Sound: Robert Kaplowitz
• Video: Jason Thompson
The Guthrie’s 50
season opens with a winner! Tales from Hollywood is a rock-solid
experience, buoyed by a talented cast and driven by a handsome production aesthetic that does a
magnificent job of using the Wurtele Thrust space and the Guthrie’s technical capabilities. It’s a
solid kickoff for the theater’s Christopher Hampton celebration”
Ed Huyck, City Pages
"The production is staged fluidly by Ethan McSweeny, who has directed some daringly
affecting shows at the Guthrie, including John Guare's ‘Six Degrees of Separation' and
Arthur Miller's ‘A View from the Bridge.' ... Here he and projection designer Jason H.
Thompson use cinematic elements -- even a Foley-style sound-effects person -- to make this
talky, occasionally static work more engaging and intimate. The live projections of the actors
augment the performers without stealing attention from them … Leading a first-rate cast,
charismatic Lee Sellars invests Ödön with inviting wit and warmth. He is a study in versatility,
popping effortlessly in and out of accents and scenes."
Rohan Preston, Star Tribune
“Kicking off its 50th season [is] Christopher Hampton's Tales from Hollywood, a dizzyingly
dark and absurdist comedy of the lives and work of Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich and Thomas
Mann, and their émigré (or more appropriately-exiled) novelists and screen-writers. Fascism,
capitalism and the role of the writer are at odds as director, Ethan McSweeny, cleverly
weaves historical insight into this 'film within a play' staging style, taking audiences on a
whirlwind of philosophical discourse and witty banter … All the while, the cast is silently
filmed with their images and dialogue projected on the screen in black and white, creating an
'Old Hollywood' feel and intimately involving the audience in the lives and experiences of the
characters. While the screen would seem to distract from the stage, quite the opposite
occurs. Character emotions appear amplified, and the subtle cues in facial expressions
make the unspoken, at times, more powerful than the dialogue.”
“If the rest of the season proves to be as intellect-tickling and toothsome as this first offering ...
this golden anniversary promises to be a strong one.”
Dominic Papatola, Pioneer Press
“Thought-provoking and layered ... Much kudos must be paid to the behind-the-scenes team
and director Ethan McSweeny … throughout the entire performance, a visible camera
crew captures video of the actors which plays live behind the cast on giant screens. The
scene is precisely how one would imagine a 1940s movie set to feel, and the ambiance adds a
crucial extra element of depth and tone to the production.”
Ellen Burkhardt, Minnesota Monthly
Very cool. The idea of Bertolt Brecht trying to scratch out a living writing Hollywood movie
scripts is a golden sit-com premise all its own, and Hampton knows a good comic set-up when he
sees one … not that Tales from Hollywood is particularly high-brow; in fact, it goes high and low
in equal measure, offering up something for everyone . . . Throughout the play, video cameras
project the action onstage on the back wall in black-and-white, making it look like art
instantaneously imitating life; one as a reflection of the other.”
MSP Magazine
Under Ethan McSweeny’s direction and Lee Savage’s stunning design the entire set is a
ballad to one of America’s most dynamic and influential institutions: 1930’s Hollywood.
Individual scenes are shot onstage and screened on a prodigious screen, blurring the lines
between personal dramas and cinematic productions, between artists and industry,
between theater and film … The dialogue is poignant where it captures the tension between the
émigrés’ appreciation of the fortuitous circumstances that granted them refuge in this country,
and their frustration at their exploitation by the film industry … it is the tragic lot of Heinrich
Mann and his wife Nelly – played movingly by Keir Dullea and Allison Daugherty – that
draws the playwright’s compassion … Perhaps this production is best in its orchestration of
the subdued subtleties of the script: of the untold calamities that displaced the writers from
their homes, the belittlement they endured from publishers and producers, and the portending
practices of Congress toward their suspect Communist engagement. On rare occasions does the
pain unravel forcefully, but it is throbbing all along the production.”
Mira Reinberg, Aisle Say
by Gilbert & Sullivan
Stratford Shakespeare Festival • May – October 2012
Sets: Anna Louizos • Costumes: Paul Tazwell • Lights: Howell Binkley • Sound: ??
Choreography: Marcos Santos • Music Direction: Franklin Brasz
Raise a glass of pirate sherry in celebration … director Ethan McSweeny brings a
respectful, yet fresh approach [with] enough delicious ridiculousness that it should win
over the hearts of all Stratford Shakespeare Festival patrons … it looks and sounds
marvelous. The opening songs are given a catchy Celtic orchestration, while Paul Tazewell’s
costumes for them are inspired by the retro-futurist fantasy style known as steam punk.
McSweeny, refreshingly, trusts WS Gilbert’s words to be funny without updating them. With
Kyle Blair as the funniest Frederic you’re ever likely to see, this pirate ship is worth climbing
J Kelly Nestruck, Toronto Globe and Mail
“With all the telescopes, police batons, women toting steampunk gunnery, cannons, steely blades
& wooden swords, bombs, frilly & leggy bridal gowns & under kilt espionage, there is plenty of
repressed/not-so-repressed Victorian Sexiana … This Pirates is a delightful excursion, with
top-sail leadership by Kyle Blair and Amy Wallis.”
James Reaney, London Free Press
by Kate Fodor
Primary Stages • January – March 2012
Sets: Lee Savage • Costumes: Andrea Lauer • Lights: Matthew Richards • Sound: Lindsay Jones
"A sprightly, engaging comedy by Kate Fodor … A winning combination of light satire and
romance, the play pokes gentle fun at our overprescribed culture “Rx” evenly balances
its satirical thrusts at Big Pharma and its depiction of the ups and downs of the little people
looking to it for daily relief … Marin Hinkle gives a winsome performance. Elizabeth
Rich plays Phil’s rapacious boss, Allison, with hilarious verve. The wonderful actress
Marylouise Burke, an expert at creating appealingly unsentimental portraits of dotty older
women, provides wry comic relief. Under the crisply paced direction of Ethan McSweeny,
“Rx” zips along the curves of its plot with brisk conviction. A smart, sweet play.”
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
A prescription for laughter … watching Kate Fodor's sharp, tenderly sardonic new comedy,
Rx, I kept thinking of Ernst Lubitsch. Aficionados of the great German American filmmaker's
masterpieces, with their enchanting mixture of sweetness and sting, will know what I mean when
I say that they might describe Fodor's charming play as The Clinical Trial Around the Corner
[Fodor turns] a classic boy-meets-girl romantic structure into a thornily funny image of today's
screwed-up world. She's got the extra advantage, too, of a smart, precise, zestily dry
production by Ethan McSweeny: every lunacy in its place, neatly labeled, and irresistible
… McSweeny's production moves at a rollicking clip while still allowing his actors full time
for tenderness. As a result of this neat balancing act, Fodor's silly, hapless, misguided characters
start to become dear to us. We laugh at them as an index of the contemporary world's foolishness
while still loving them as people.”
Michael Feingold, The Village Voice
Ideal entertainment for neurotic people living in anxious times. Kate Fodor’s comic tone is
well-balanced. Directors and designers rarely receive kudos for their sense of proportion.
But it’s worth noting how comfortably this production, helmed by Ethan McSweeny fits
both the scope of the play and the stage dimensions of its 198-seat off-Broadway house.
(Something to keep in mind for future productions.) … Lee Savage’s compact set makes the
case. Clad in shades of grey, the Chinese-box design of a generic office interior is cleverly
outfitted with camouflaged doors, drawers, cupboards, and drop-downs. Frequent scene
changes are not only efficiently executed, they’re also fun to watch. Fodor has a way with
flawed characters, and her lovers here are so warmly drawn that we feel we have a stake in their
fate. Scribe’s comic tone is well-balanced — light enough to rescue Meena and Phil from their
own demons, but sharp enough to stick it to a pharmaceutical industry that makes its billions by
convincing people that being human is a disease.”
Marilyn, Stasio, Variety
A fast-acting short-term mood-brightener. The show works like a multi-symptom med: As it
sends up our cultural obsession with pills to cure everything (plop, plop), it skewers self-serving
drug companies (fizz, fizz). The acting by the ensemble and direction by Ethan McSweeny
are fleet-footed.”
Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News
“ A stylish, clever satire of drug companies … A snappy new comedy by Kate Fodor. A good
dose of intelligent fun. Presented by Primary Stages, the fast and witty 100-minute
production is smoothly directed by Ethan McSweeny … a stylish, clever satire of drug
trials, medical marketing tricks, and our over-dependence on pills to solve
problems. Elizabeth Rich gives a ferociously funny performance. Paul Niebanck brings
slapstick charm to his portrayal of Ed”
Associated Press
Kate Fodor's piercing new comedy ‘Rx’ contains equally strong dosages of satire and
insight. Fodor strikingly portrays our overmedicated society. A solid cast and keen direction
from Ethan McSweeny perfectly balance the wickedly funny social barbs with compassionate
portraiture. The show is an effective prescription from Primary Stages for an anemic theater
season. The resourceful Marin Hinkle and Stephen Kunken paint a paletteful of subtle shades
when depicting the unlikely lovers. Hinkle finds the heartbreaking humor. Kunken is goofily
endearing. Elizabeth Rich is voraciously sharp-toothed. The reliable Marylouise Burke hits
Frances from an unexpected angle, finding joy in this lonely lady's discoveries. Paul Niebanck
pulls double duty, making the most of his scene as the alternatively hyper and melancholy
Richard and endowing the foggy-minded Ed with an adorable shaggy-dog quality. Michael
Bakkensen as Meena's insensitive superior handles it with aplomb.”
David Sheward, Backstage
"Part satire and part romantic comedy -- is brought to life by a strong cast under the
direction of Ethan McSweeny. Hinkle strikes just the right note … both funny and
heartfelt. Kunken has a wry, understated manner … but also provides an enormous depth of
emotion that roils just under the surface. Marylouise Burke does an outstanding job. Elizabeth
Rich impresses. Paul Niebanck is effective in two rather different roles. Set designer Lee
Savage has fun with the visualization of certain scenes -- particularly the locale where Meena
and Frances first meet. Lindsay Jones' original music/sound design is also particularly spot-on
whenever the change to this particular environment occurs.”
Dan Bacalzo, Theatremania
Shakespeare Theatre Company • December 2011 – January 2012
Sets: Lee Savage • Costumes: Clint Ramos • Lights: Tyler Micoleau • Sound: Steven Cahill •
Choreography: Marcos Santos
Winner of 2 Helen Hayes Awards: Best Scenic Design and Best Supporting Actor
Under Ethan McSweeny's assured direction, the Beatrice and Benedick of Kathryn Meisle
and Derek Smith achieve the goal that eludes some incarnations of this oft-seen work: the
notion that this couple, Elizabethan forerunners of Noel Coward's Amanda and Elyot... are
predestined mates of the wits as well as the soul … With the polish of this high-end comic
couple — and at the play’s opposite end, the surefire lunacy of its low-comedy pairing of the
addle-pated watchmen Dogberry (Ted van Griethuysen) and Verges (that rascally scene-stealer,
Floyd King) — the company’s new “Much Ado” has lots of good things going for it …
McSweeny’s handling of this comedy’s buoyant plotting is visually and even conceptually
superior … the very specific location and time is Cuba in the 1930s, a setting that retains the
sun-baked sensuality of Shakespeare’s Messina gives the director, composer Steven Cahill
and choreographer Marcos Santana opportunities for a few conga-drumming, hip-
bouncing fiestas. It also provides set designer Lee Savage with the inspiration for a
gorgeous set — the central, open space of Leonato’s hacienda, complete with a weather-
worn garden statue of Cupid.”
Peter Marks, The Washington Post
“Ethan McSweeny’s current production is set in 1930s Cuba, which adds all the warmth of an
exotic locale to a suitably religious and complex social hierarchy. Given what happens to poor
Hero, one almost expects the female characters in Much Ado to be wearing burqas by act four,
but since a production set in Kabul might be excessive, McSweeny’s choice is a clever one.
Given that this is feel-good holiday fare, McSweeny’s success in balancing the play’s
romantic comedy with its less-sunny elements is even more commendable. This production’s
appeal undeniably stems from its performances, which are almost universally strong,
although Clint Ramos’s costumes and Savage’s set make it a visual treat, too (Ramos frequently
dresses all the women in pink, in a not-too-subtle jab at the battle of the sexes). But as the wire-
crossed lovers, Meisle and Smith deserve credit for conjuring an utterly believable romance.
Their chemistry, even as enemies, is obvious, and it’s the sense of optimism their relationship
offers that really makes Much Ado such a pleasing spectacle. Given how poorly the idealized
romances fare, it’s heartening to believe in lovers who were frenemies first.”
Sophie Gilbert, Washingtonian Magazine
Shakespeare Theater Company June – August, 2011
Sets: Andrew Lieberman • Costumes: Jennifer Moeller Lights: Marcus Doshi Sound: Steven
Cahill Choreography: Karma Camp
“Technically brilliant, well-acted, full of small insights and pleasures both large and small …
[Merchant is} a visual feast; every corner of Harman Hall’s capacious stage is alive with
information, and sumptuously rich.
Tim Treanor, DC Theatre Scene
“McSweeny highlights those divisions by moving the action from 16th-century Venice to 1920s
New York City, a place where there was a neighborhood for every ethnicity, cultural lines
reflected in geographical boundaries…the transfer works wonderfully. The jazz-age
trappings, noir-ish lighting and street level smoke and fog, and a backdrop of speakeasies
and organized crime give the proceedings an undercurrent of menace that gives a dark
edge to the humor.”
Ian Buckwalter, The DCist
“The approach makes Portia pretty unattractive, and it’s a credit to Coffey and her
director that they don’t try to soften her edges by making her flighty or offhand
With so many characters ranging from insensitive to reprehensible, comedy’s no more or less
appropriate than it is in, say, South Park … [which] is a workable if not a particularly
ingratiating approach at Sidney Harman Hall, where designer Andrew Lieberman centers a
massive industrial-steel setting on a stage-dominating staircase that suggests upward mobility.”
Bob Mondello, Washington City Paper
“McSweeny nails the big picture, but gives equal weight to the quiet moments. There’s so
much rich interplay in this production it’s hard to know where to look … One of the chief
joys of director Ethan McSweeny’s sprawling production now playing at the Shakespeare
Theatre Company is the restoration of Antonio as the merchant of Venice. Derek Smith’s
economical portrayal, containing the character’s melancholy and self-loathing within the
cool veneer of commerce and charisma, is revelatory … the second exposure of the soul
beneath that touched me most was Shylock’s reaction to friend Tubal’s recounting of Jessica’s
betrayal, the selling of her mother’s ring to gain a monkey. Nelson’s anguish is so simple yet
searing it reminds one that these are lines most potent in Shakespeare, the prose that goes right to
the heart of it – “I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor. I would not have given it for a
wilderness of monkeys.” There are things one does not part with for gain, and here McSweeny
punctuates the humanity of Shylock.”
Jenn Larsen, We Love DC
“Mark Nelson's Shylock is quite unlike any I have ever seen. Better, perhaps, than the
others because he makes this complex character so human … his demeanor is more than
sympathetic. And yet, as he sharpens his knife, to get his "pound of flesh" in the manner of a
barber, he is to be feared greatly.”
Susan Davidson, Curtain Up
“This production succeeds in laying out the casual cruelty among all the characters. “
Susan Berlin, Talkin’ Broadway
By George Bernard Shaw
Guthrie Theatre • March-April 2011
Sets: Walt Spangler • Costumes: Murell Horton • Lights:Robert Wierzel • Sound: Richard
The comedic firepower onstage at the Guthrie Theater in Arms and the Man could blow
the roof off the big blue building: Peter Michael Goetz, Jim Lichtscheidl, Michael Shantz—all
ridiculously draped with period military costuming and armed with the wit of George Bernard
Shaw … Director Ethan McSweeny, who led a memorably modern take on Romeo & Juliet at
the Guthrie a few years back, is the guy to call when you’ve unearthed an artifact you need
updated. Here, he injects contemporary expressions and hilarious interlude the way a jazz
drummer works around the edges of phrasing (the clever faux intermission between the
first and second acts, in which the actors break the fourth wall to dance and clown for the
audience, is particularly inspired).”
Tim Gihring, Minnesota Monthly
Ethan McSweeny’s production stretches the natural farce in Shaw’s spoof of war and
social class [but] holds the proper tension between Lichtscheidl’s well-articulated
Bluntschli and the whole Bulgarian gaggle of softheaded bourgeoisie … the exaggeration is
just right, as when Nakasone’s Raina swoons onto a fainting couch after being forced to tell a lie.
McSweeny and set designer Walt Spangler have created an appealing container. The proscenium
is turned into a Tyrolean jewel box with miniature toy soldiers arrayed along the stage front. As
the curtain rises, Raina Petkoff's bedroom sits in the midst of a starry night and snowcapped
Graydon Royce, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“This production, directed by Ethan McSweeny, hits the script's cartoonishness hard, building
elaborate bits of business around foolish actions …and so it is that the whole cast has fun. “
Max Sparber, Minn Post
Director Ethan McSweeny ups the “fun” quotient … the slapstick serves the play nicely and
in the hands of the as-always first rate Guthrie cast, it works … The design is marvelous. Walt
Spangler‘s set bursts with color, fractured walls, enormous paper flowers, angry bulls heads.
Even more color is provided by Murell Horton‘s excellent costumes, Robert Wierzel‘s lighting
and Richard Woodbury‘s sound … the designers provide a feast for the eyes.”
John Olive, How Was the Show
by Regina Taylor
Goodman Theatre/Dallas Theatre Center • October 2010 – February 2011
Sets: Todd Rosenthal • Costumes: Karen Perry • Lights: Tyler Micoleau • Sound: Steven Cahill •
Music: Daryl Waters
The Trinity River Plays are like the garden in which much of their action is set –
sprawling, florid, earthy and abundantly aliveA great deal of the credit for the show's
entertaining surface must go to director Ethan McSweeny, his design team and his cast
All four women are beyond praise. Aldridge pushes things right to the brink of too much, but
never quite goes overboard. Jerald reveals a hidden warmth under her austerity. Williams and
Clark are simply perfect.”
Lawson Taite, Dallas Morning News
Brilliantly written, directed and performed … a must see. It possesses the perfect balance of
humanity, humor, superb acting and gut wrenching dramatic scenes seamlessly flowing into each
other. Taylor and director Ethan McSweeny deftly take her characters on a journey
through some of life’s darkest moments, while allowing emotionally satisfying
transformations. It is a touching portrait of growing up, motherhood and family
relationships…about going home to move forward.”
Marilee Vergati, Dallas Examiner
The kind of show that gets the attention of the Pulitzer committee. Brilliant American
playwright: check. Regional authenticity: check. Drama of significance: check, check. The
trilogy is still in development, but it’s likely headed for the promised land … its director, Ethan
McSweeny, has staged more than 60 productions around the country, and made his Broadway
debut in 2000 with the revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. In other words, he’s the kind of
experienced guy producers and playwrights love… So it’s not a shock that the acting in The
Trinity River Plays is stellar [and] the staging is inspired.”
Christine Allison, D Magazine
Director and Broadway veteran Ethan McSweeny deftly navigates the production,
balancing the many impressive talents to create a symbiotic whole … In particular, the scenic
design, by Tony Award-winner Todd Rosenthal, is deceptively simple as the audience looks in
on Rose’s home, via a cross-section of the interior, through the backyard. The rain effect on
stage is impressive, but the overall use of space is just as exceptional.”
Kris Noteboom, TheatreJones
“Exceptionally well cast and extremely well acted … From teenage French kissing lessons to
the aftermath of sexual indiscretion, and with Soul Train dance moves alongside unrequited love
and bitter grief, the world premiere of Regina Taylor’s new trilogy is a soul piercing account
of one woman’s struggle to come to terms with her past as it continues to affect her future.”
The Flash
“With The Trinity River Plays, Golden Globe-winning actress and playwright Regina Taylor
has planted poetic seeds in fertile ground. Namely, the Dallas Theater Center, where the
trilogy of one-act plays is having its world premiere … Director Ethan McSweeny's cast
members, notably Clark, give powerhouse performances, and Todd Rosenthal's sprawling set
of the prairie-style home and the back yard is among the best work on a local stage in ages.”
Mark Lowry,
“The Trinity River Plays are a must see! [It] goes back to the fundamentals of writing a solid
story … the one thing that separates the average play from the phenomenal one. In the new
trilogy from TV, Film and theater star Regina Taylor we get a healthy dose of emotion, and
depth of character. Regina writes what people breathe; joy, suffering, pain, and gladness. She
touches you through her characters and at times transports you back to a time in your life when
you experienced something life changing. It might be a quick moment or conscious flash, but
you feel it.”
by Christopher Hampton
Stratford Shakespeare Festival August-October, 2010
Sets & Costumes: Santo Loquasto Lights: Robert Thomson Sound: Michael Roth
★★★★… Stylish, intelligent and funny …Sex has never been a big commodity at Stratford,
but that situation definitely changed on Thursday night when Dangerous Liaisons opened at the
Festival Theatre…Ethan McSweeny’s production of this slice of late 18th century French
sensual intrigue is not only impeccably stylish, acerbically intelligent and mordantly funny,
but it packs a truly erotic kick that is very welcome indeed … Technically, the show is
Stratford at its best. Santo Loquasto creates a chilling world of metallic elegance, which
respects the original period, but still gives everything a soulless modern edge. His costumes
make everyone look eminently seduceable and the lighting of Robert Thomson knows when to
blast us with cold white light, or dazzle us with rock ‘n’ roll primary coloursMcSweeny, for
someone who has never directed on the Festival stage before, shows an astonishing command
of how to make that mystic space work. His direction is clear, precise, pointed, always
showing us what we need to see, or – in the case of his detailed scene changes that involve the
servants – showing us things we never expected to see as well. This is world-class theatre and
we should be thrilled to have it on our doorstep.
Richard Ouzounian, The Toronto Star
Deliciously engaging … to say the festival season goes out with a luxurious and seductive
bang is an understatement. And it’s all deliciously depraved enjoyment for cast and
audience alike. Directed by Ethan McSweeny in an impressive Stratford debut, [Dangerous
Liaisons] assembles some of the festival’s stars in Seana McKenna, Tom McCamus and Martha
Henry…witnessing McKenna and McCamus verbally joust on stage brings the script to life
before our very eyes — language transformed into action, literature transformed into life in all its
sordid glory. McSweeny adds a touch of contemporary musical theatre flair with refrains from a
harpsichord giving way to driving electric guitar riffs – it works in marvelously jarring way..the
juxtaposition of 18th century opulence and modern theatrical artifice is [further] achieved
through the contrast between a magnificent crystal chandelier, complete with real candles, and
banks of stage lights and a monumental stainless steel door as a backdrop. The production is not
only stylish, thanks in large part to designer Santo Loquasto, but is one of the most
unabashedly sexy productions ever staged at Stratford.”
Robert Reid, The Record
“Dangerously irresistibleIn an impressive Stratford debut, director Ethan McSweeny
stages these wicked games on a chessboard set designed by Santo Loquasto. In between the
scenes, he’s choreographed what seems like a whole second shadow play between the
various maids and servants who roll the sets on and off. It shows who’s really in charge –
soon, it’ll be the ancien régime’s heads they’ll be rolling off. The scene changes take place to a
soundtrack of harpsichord mixed with squealing electric guitar and are lit by Robert Thomson
like a rock concert, linking this sexually licentious world to the decadence of more recent
decades. As the tightly wound Tourvel, Topham loosens her corseted conscience only inch by
inch – and the slow seduction only makes it all the hotter. It’s indeed impressive that she stays
upright as long as she does, because she and McCamus have some truly sensational
chemistry…Michael Therriault gets the second biggest laughs of the night as an inexperienced
suitor, sheepishly caught with his pants down. The biggest one goes to Martha Henry as
Valmont’s eccentric older aunt sharing her hairstyle and a communion wafer with her lapdog.”
J Kelly Nestruck, The Globe and Mail
★★★★★ Impressively directed by Ethan McSweeny and lavishly designed by Santo
Loquasto, this is a compelling production [with] impressive performances throughout from a
blue-blooded supporting cast — the venerable Martha Henry, the always impressive Yanna
McIntosh and the evergreen Michael Therriault joining Jillard and Topham in an all but flawless
ensemble — it belongs, in the end, to McCamus and McKenna … And well it should, for
rarely have these two worked better, either separately or as a team.
John Coulborn, The Toronto Sun
Sexual evil stalks Stratford stage…This final production of Stratford's 2010 season is also
one of its best…director Ethan McSweeny has seen the exciting possibilities of the Festival
Theatre's famous thrust stage for exploiting the hothouse intimacy of the play and of drawing the
audience into its embrace…McSweeny, obviously excited by this space, makes outstanding
use of it in mounting his exquisitely detailed dissection of the manners, mores and
monstrousness of a culture soon to be felled by the revolution.”
Jaimie Portman, The Vancouver Sun
by Euripides, tranlated by David Lan
Shakespeare Theatre Company, March-May 2009
Sets Rachel Hauck • Lights Tyler Micoleau • Costumes Rachel Myers • Music Michael Roth
Maybe the gods really are crazy. In Shakespeare Theatre Company's sprightly new staging
of Euripides' "Ion," Apollo messes things up but good for a mortal royal family, despoiling the
queen, deceiving her husband and keeping an heir in the dark about his lineage. Director
Ethan McSweeny, who showed in his arresting 2006 production of Aeschylus's "The
Persians" a knack for the visual starkness of Greek tragedy, now takes on a work from
antiquity of lighter spirit…courtesy of canny set designer Rachel Hauck, the stage of Sidney
Harman Hall has been evocatively transformed into the craggy cliff top on which Apollo's
temple rests. Time seems to stand still at this higher altitude. While we're welcomed outside
the giant temple doors by Aubrey Deeker's classically gilded Hermes -- who majestically
descends from the ceiling on a train of red fabric -- the site is invaded by five sassy actresses
playing the chorus. They're dressed not in the sort of outfits you find on Greek statues,
but rather those you might see in the lobby of the Athens Marriott…the cheeky
sensibility offers an appealing postmodern varnish, typified by the appearance at play's
end of winged goddess Athene, who with great panache floats down from the clouds. As
embodied by the delightful Colleen Delany, Athene seems intended to elicit giggles rather than
shivers. At one point, she gazes out at us and offers a tiny shrug, as if to say: "What the heck
do I know? I'm only a deity."
Peter Marks, The Washington Post
★★★★Fresh. Bright. Fun. Not the words usually associated with Greek tragedy. Yet
the Shakespeare Theatre Company's staging of Euripides' "Ion," under the joyful
direction of Ethan McSweeny, is more sunny than sorrow-struck.
Those who associate Greek drama with much rending of togas and keening over butchered kin
may find themselves caught charmingly off-guard by such light touches as the Chorus
portrayed as a gaggle of nosy and tongue-wagging girl tourists — and a deus ex machina
appearance by the majestically winged goddess Athena, who happily bangs a tambourine like a
Hellenic member of the Partridge Family during the musical finale. "Ion" deals with the
themes of identity and belonging. And for all its nimbleness, it is a mature work that questions
authority as well as the infallibility of the gods we worship …There is something
Obamaesque about Mr. Chappelle's charismatic and poised turn as Ion. Both are men
who came from nowhere to become the leaders of great nations. According to Greek
legend, Ion is the ancestor of all Athenians. Like the new president, he stands at the advent of
something new and asks the people to believe in him. But wait, there's more: a happy ending.
"Ion" concludes not with a pileup of bloodstained bodies, but with the catharsis of laughter,
song and reunited families. This modern staging of a 2,500-year-old play provides a
Parthenon of pleasures in a mere 90 minutes.”
Jayne Blanchard, The Washington Times
Euripides would love the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of his "Ion," a
passionate drama that finally resolves into a comedy…The success of this production is largely
due to David Lan’s fresh, contemporary adaptation, which retains all the complexity of
Euripides’ original. Director Ethan McSweeny has created a fanciful blend of the ancient
and modern. His chorus is a clutch of tourists, circa 2009, who sing Michael Roth’s delightful
original music … Rachel Hauck’s set is simple and effective: three huge columns on a raised,
circular marble floor. The costumes, by Rachel Myers, are deliciously imaginative, particularly
Hermes’ golden outfits and Athena’s gossamer gown and sturdy silver wings…Washington is
fortunate to have a production of "Ion," which is rarely produced. It is doubly fortunate
to have this first-rate production, which reveals Euripides’ sophistication and wit so
Barbara Mackay, The Washington Examiner
It is always good news when Ethan McSweeny returns to direct here. He is, after all, the
former Associate Director of the company whose last outings were the sparkling Major
Barbara for which he has been nominated for a Helen Hayes Award and the smashing
production of Aeschylus' The Persians, which lingers in memory even three years later. Just as
with the earlier production of a rarely performed ancient play, his touch is marked by an
effort to make a play from millennia past work as well for a contemporary audience as its
original may have for audiences now long dead. Again with Euripides' tale of possibly
prevaricating deities, McSweeny makes an ancient tale both entertaining and edifying for a
modern audience while using some nifty modern stagecraft to make his points. He has a
fresh adaptation of the 2,500 year old play which studiously avoids stuffiness and once again
uses visually impressive techniques to both provide the background information the audience
needs and wrap it all up at the end - and the absolute final treat - a top-40s style pop song (yes,
doo-wop in a Greek classic!). Drawing from the Shakespeare Theatre Company's treasure
trove of regulars, McSweeny has the likes of Sam Tsoutsouvas for the would-be-father Xuthus,
Floyd King for an old servant and adds newcomers of note in the key roles of Ion and his
mother…The real find, however, is Keith Eric Chappelle. It seemed such a stretch to say
that McSweeny hit on something when he cast a young Barack Obama look-alike as Ion
who has such great things ahead of him, until I noticed that among young Chappelle's credits in
New York was the role of Barack in something called Obama Drama. Whether intentional or
not, as our town is enthused over our new President, there is a resonance to this casting
that imbues the production with a contemporary hopefulness.”
Brad Hathaway, Potomac Stages
“It is easy to understand, in this sprightly adaptation by David Lan so well staged by Ethan
McSweeny, that the stakes are nothing less than the fate of the human soul … It helps that
McSweeny has an all-star cast… [but] the best part of the show is unquestionably the
chorus: Rebecca Baxter, Lise Bruneau, Kate Debelack, Laiona Michelle and Patricia
Santomasso. The traditional Greek chorus speaks the prescribed verses in unison but this
chorus sings those verses, in gorgeous five-part harmony to Michael Roth’s beautiful music,
accompanied principally by a fabulous cellist, Caleb Jones. It is McSweeny’s conceit that the
chorus - handmaidens all to Creusa - come to Delphi as modern tourists, with iPods, suntan oil
and cameras. They each establish their own (strikingly modern) personas, but when they
first raise their voices to sing Euripides’ profoundly moving verses on children and
childlessness, they immediately universalize their characters, and become the human
Tim Treanor, DC Theatre Scene
by Edward Albee
CenterStage October-November 2008
Sets: Lee Savage • Lights: Robert Wierzel • Costumes: Murrel Horton • Sound: Michael Bodeen
Baltimore City Paper Best Production of 2008
“Center Stage, which is mounting a superb production of Edward Albee's harrowing drama,
hasn't tackled Virginia Woolf since 1974, when an fire burned the theater to the ground…This
time, all the fire is on stageThe talented director Ethan McSweeny elicits first-rate
performances from his top-notch cas …The marvelous Deborah Hedwall portrays Martha as a
woman who flaunts her sexuality but hides her intelligence…when the moment is right,
[Andrew] Weems hurls an insult through the air like a blade, every syllable honed to maximum
sharpness …Early in the evening, ticketholders at Center Stage reacted almost as if they
were viewing a comedy, responding to every put-down with laughter. By the time the show
had ended, there was nary a cough, a murmur, a rustled program. Audience members
barely dared shift position. It's as though we, and not Albee's characters, were on the hot
Mary Carole McCauley, The Baltimore Sun
“When you see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in its magnificent new production at
Center Stage, this 46-year-old play is nothing like its caricature…There's a surprising
number of laugh-out-loud funny moments, especially in the first act, and some heartbreakingly
sad moments as well, especially in the third. Above all, there's the brilliant writing--not only in
the inspired wordplay of puns, allusions, and double meanings, but also in the way artifice, in the
form of both party games and literary fiction, is used to distort and ultimately reveal
reality…and this terrific cast sucks us in during each confidential lull and then knocks us
over with each new climax…As Martha, Hedwall is a force of nature, dominating the stage …
Weems isn't as showy as Hedwall, but he's every bit as good … These are two of the best
performances you will ever see on a Baltimore stage.”
Geoffrey Himes, Baltimore City Paper
by Arthur Miller
Guthrie Theater • September-October 2008
Sets: John Arnone • Lights: Don Holder • Costumes: Robert Perdziola • Sound: David Maddox
“Gifted actor John Carroll Lynch plays Eddie, the problematic center of Ethan McSweeny's
stunning production of Arthur Miller's psychosexual classic…The volcanic staging -- a
mountain range with eruptions followed by sizzling quiet -- flows like a great inflected
opera…There is more than a touch of the ancient Greek in this tragedy, which is redolent with
issues of lust, justice and immigrant dreams of America…McSweeny's masterful staging,
which makes excellent use of the thrust stage, underscores Miller's primal poetry.”
Rohan Preston, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“From the beginning, you know the thing is going to end badly; it’s just a question of who is
going to kill who, when, and why. Guided by Ethan McSweeney’s unobtrusively intelligent
direction, the noose slowly tightens around Eddie’s neck, until all his good intentions
eventually lead him down the exit ramp to hell. The set, staging, casting, and direction all
feel perfectly suited for this play, which is a testament to McSweeney’s talent for putting
the text and characters first, rather than shellacking it with his own ideas about what the play
“should” be trying to communicate. Miller’s message in A View is as ancient as the Greek
dramas upon which it is based, but seeing it unfold in a contemporary drama, with characters the
audience can relate to, gives the play’s final moments a much more immediate impact. These are
simple people trying to get along in a complex world, which is of course a recipe for disaster—
and, when it’s done well, great drama.”
Tad Simons, Minneapolis.St.Paul Magazine
“Ethan McSweeny directs with a sure hand and has a made-to-measure cast. John Carroll
Lynch plays Eddie in a powerful realization of a big, middle-aged man, kind, but domineering
and blind to himself. Beatrice comes to full life in the hands of accomplished Amy Van Nostrand
… Robyn Rikoon's engaging young Catherine begins as fresh as a morning in spring, but
circumstance forces her to mature before our eyes…[Ron] Menzel infuses Marco, a family man
who has starving children at home, with quiet passion...[Bryce] Pinkham charms as intelligent
Rodolpho. Lovely touches from director McSweeny add to the realism…When Catherine
throws herself into Eddie's arms, he staggers for a second and feels his back; he's a stevedore
who lifts heavy goods for a living. During the dramatically lit dockside loading scenes, ships'
horns sound in the distance in David Maddox's sound design. The lawyer's desk is heaved
on stage by stevedores, unpacked and, voila, Donald Holder's lighting turns a corner of the
stage into an intimate office. McSweeny uses the generous space of the thrust stage to great
affect, and I find it hard to imagine this expansive play being confined by a proscenium stage.
My advice, go and see the Guthrie's muscled production of A View from the Bridge.
Elizabeth Wier,
by Arthur Miller
The Chautauqua Theater Company • July 2008
Sets: Lee Savage • Lights: Tyler Micoleau • Costumes: Tracy Christensen • Sound: Michael Roth
“The Chautauqua production, starring Stuart Margolin as the tortured protagonist Willy Loman
and directed by CTC co-Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny, is incredibly well conceived and
executed by the company’s mix of conservatory members and visiting artists. Revelatory
performances from Margolin and conservatory member Zach Appelman provide the
freight-train force behind the production, and they are helped by a fiercely gifted
supporting cast, along with the well-oiled staging and perfect pacing for which McSweeny
has become known. For Chautauqua Theater Company, McSweeny and especially for Margolin,
this all-too-brief production of Miller’s masterpiece is a truly remarkable thing indeed.”
Colin Dabkowski, Buffalo News
“One of the finest American plays ever written is on the stage of Chautauqua's Bratton Theater
this week, in a production as good as the play itself. If you were one of those slugs who read
the abbreviated notes when your English teacher brought out Arthur Miller's ''Death of a
Salesman,'' this is your opportunity to understand why this play is taught and revered all around
the world. Great directors have found many approaches to playwright Miller's wonderful words.
At Chautauqua, Ethan McSweeny has found threads of fatalism in the play, subtly highlighting
how Willy's own childhood had taught him to live on dreams, and how he has raised his own
sons with exactly the same values which have served him so badly.”
Robert W. Plyler, Jamestown Post-Journal
by George Bernard Shaw
The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington DC • February - March 2008
Sets: Jim Noone • Lights: Robert Wierzel • Costumes: Robert Perdziola • Sound: David Maddox
Winner of Helen Hayes Awards for Best Scenic Design (James Noone) and
Best Supporting Actor (Ted van Griethuysen)
“McSweeny guides his meticulously chosen cast through the mazes of Shaw's debates over
the social responsibilities of the privileged vs. the pious as if the actors had been hired for
their skills both in elocution and mischief-making. When Shaw's tenaciously argumentative
works are handled by particular craftsmen who possess a flair for his eyebrow-raising satire as
well as his rhetorical pugilism, Shaw can be an out-and-out "up." That, fortunately, is how Ethan
McSweeny's posh production comes across in the company's Harman Center for the Arts.”
Peter Marks, Washington Post
“George Bernard Shaw liked to skewer 'em now and again, so it's fitting that director
Ethan McSweeny is doing pretty much the same with the opening gambit in his sleek,
smart staging of Major Barbara. Wouldn't do to spoil the effect, so let's just say that with a
single gesture (you'll want to watch those title-card projections), McSweeny deftly, wittily
disarms audiences who might be stressing about a long evening in the company of the old
blowhard's overwrought, overwritten speeches…Minutes later comes the discovery–
delightful surprise–that the drawing room of Lady Britomart Undershaft (sublime Helen Carey)
has been commandeered by a swarm of Oscar Wilde's best and brittle-est Thank god for a
director and a cast who remember that Shaw’s stern sociopolitical lectures come with plenty of
laugh lines. The repartee is rousing, the satire sharp, and really, any director who can get
four separate laughs out of four separate exits, not to mention a belly laugh out of a bit
with a throw pillow—in a Shaw play?—is unmistakably on his game.”
Trey Graham, Washington City Paper
“McSweeny has a keen sense of timing and keeps the production moving, pushing past
stumbling blocks that could easily derail a less experienced and committed director. He
handles all three acts which require three completely different sets with one intermission,
clocking the production in at 2 hours 30 minutes-no easy feat. Furthermore, McSweeny is not
afraid of poking laughter into what could be interminable moments and usually finds a spark of
light-hearted fun in even the most dreadfully deadened situations. Such talents are particularly
useful here because despite Shaw’s wit and repartee, he can still get bogged down hammering his
various points. McSweeny’s light touch helps in those tough spots.”
Debbie Jackson, DC Theatre Scene
“The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington has created a production of Major Barbara
that is sumptuous in both its cast and its staging. The vividly appointed sets, designed by
James Noone, and Robert Perdziola's cleverly detailed costumes are no more dazzling than
the performances marshaled by director Ethan McSweeny…The skillful cast, demonstrating
great ease with speeches that could sound like position papers in lesser hands, bring out the
lasting truth in the arguments.”
Susan Berlin, Talking Broadway
Director Ethan McSweeny fortunately understands that there is fun to be had with Shaw's
challenging discourse -- and that the most successful sermons do not sound like
sermonizing. As a result, not only is the clash that Shaw creates between idealism and realism
fully explored, but the human story of people who are seeking a path toward reconciliation is
also to be found. Superbly aided by posh sets and elegantly detailed costumes, this production
is both eye candy and brain food rolled into one clever morsel.”
Michael Toscano, Theatermania
by Steven Drukman
The Old Globe Theatre • January 2008
Sets: Lee Savage • Lights: Tyler Micoleau • Costumes: Tracy Christensen •Sound: Lindsay Jones
Winner of San Diego Critics Circle Award for Best New Play
“The production, kinetically directed by Ethan McSweeny, keeps the intellectual bob-and-
weave lively. A prizefight atmosphere dominates even when the only thing happening is an
expository swirl of reporters, managers, announcers and trainers…Drukman treats the slangy
speech of each character as though it were part of a hip-hop poetry slam. McSweeny ingeniously
converts the old-school word-spinning into modern-day theatrical rhythm. McSweeny's
direction finds the energetic soul of Drukman's drama.”
Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times
“…as sheer entertainment Ethan McSweeny's colorful Old Globe world preem wins a decision
on points.”
Bob Verini, Variety
“There's plenty to admire in this production. Director Ethan McSweeny alternates between
breathless speed with rat-a-tat delivery (think "His Girl Friday" as a boxing movie) and scenes of
quiet revelation. “
Paul Hodgins, Orange County Register
“Stephen Drukman’s “In This Corner,” in a superb world premiere on The Old Globe’s ring-
size Cassius Carter stage, lets two legendary heavyweight boxers from the 1930s battle for
personal dignity against the profit-and-propaganda process that turns people into products. In
director Ethan McSweeny’s gritty staging, ‘Corner’ drapes its message loosely over these
real-life champs, allowing us to learn about the men beneath the mantles as we gain
empathy for 'products' then and now, in sports and beyond, whose extended “entourages”
aren’t so much in their corners as in their pockets … In the 1930s, radio added play-by-play
sports coverage to its media arsenal. Families across the country now listened in unison to events
like presidential addresses and heavyweight fights. And, in respect of that powerful presence,
McSweeny stops the action to stage the 1938 fight merely through the power of words
spoken first from the original broadcast, then picked up by Smith’s oracular ringside voice.
The heightened language of the announcer, the sportscaster and the newspaper columnist
give the show its bitter flavor, like a rum-soaked stogy…McSweeny and designers Lee
Savage and Tracy Christensen go for the total realism of a boxing ring, turning the audience into
spectators, with “off-stage” actors “ringside” as much as possible. The “you are there” sensation
begins during pre-show with John Keabler’s sweaty workout as “the boxer.” This detail
accentuates the underlying metaphor of life in the ring.”
“A raised boxing ring is a directorial challenge, with ring ropes obscuring the sightlines and the
difficulty actors face getting in and out of the ring, but director Ethan McSweeny rises to the
challenge. He moves the play all around the theater, creates a snarky, cynical edge to the story
and lightens and brightens the dialogue with rat-a-tat, screwball line delivery in New Yawk-ese.”
Pam Kragen, North County Times
by Jason Grote
p. 73 Productions • November 2007
Sets: Rachel Hauck • Lights: Tyler Micoleau • Costumes: Murrell Horton •Sound: Lindsay Jones
Ten Best of 2007, TimeOut New York Magazine
People and their passions fly off the page in Jason Grote’s dynamic, intellectually agile
1001, a postmodern epic about the cultural narratives that shape our lives. In the production’s
opening sequence, an Arab woman detonates a bomb in Times Square by opening an antique
copy of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights; for the next half hour the audience is immersed
in a frisky, tongue-in-cheek take on the story of Scheherazade (Hope) and the infantile emperor
Shahriyar (Rauch). But the play soon hyperlinks out into an Escher world of interlocking time
frames and plots, ranging from modern and future New York—where Rauch and Hope are
reincarnated as a liberal Jewish grad student and his Palestinian girlfriend—to a deserted beach
where Sinbad the Seaman literally meets Jorge Luis Borges…Ethan McSweeny’s in-the-round
staging for Page 73 Productions lays a bright thread through 1001’s labyrinthine twists,
with help from a crackerjack design team and cast.
Adam Feldman, TimeOut New York
“Director Ethan McSweeny, who helmed the play's world premiere in February for Denver
Center Theater Company, keeps tight control over the narrative. Time and space shift in a
moment, but it's always clear where we are…With his design team, McSweeny also
translates ambitious stage directions into dynamic visuals…As Alan and Dahna dance at a
club, for instance, the other cast members carry on an enormous blue cloth, which they hurl
upwards like a parachute. As the cloth falls, we expect it to drape around bodies, but it settles to
the floor as though nothing were beneath it. Then, in a far corner, we see Alan using the fabric as
a blanket. Only now he's Shahriyar, and we've gone back in time. That image not only surprises,
but also enhances the theme of fluidity. Elsewhere, McSweeny smoothes the script's roughest
edges … as the narrator stands in place, the other actors scurry like mad, changing costumes or
hurling sets into place. The monologues feel vital because we watch how they summon a world
into being.”
Mark Blankenship, Variety
“Ethan McSweeny’s kinetic direction keeps the piece, at the Baruch Performing Arts
Center, moving in a quick and lucid way, as it ranges from Sinbad’s tale to Hitchcock’s
“Vertigo” to Dahna and Alan on a visit to Gaza.”
Caryn James, New York Times
by Kate Fodor
Playwrights Horizons • September-October 2007
Sets: Rachel Hauck • Lights: Jane Cox • Costumes: Mimi O’Donnell • Sound: Matt Hubbs
Ten Best of 2007, Entertainment Weekly, Theatremania, TimeOut New York Magazines
“Under Ethan McSweeny’s astute guidance, 100 Saints You Should Know’s first-rate cast is
beautifully alert to the recurrent sense of missed opportunity built into Fodor’s writing—
those moments in which tentative gestures of goodwill are overlooked or deflected, and the
ripples of defensiveness that follow. But the scenes that linger most affectingly after the curtain
are those in which some small breakthrough is awkwardly accomplished: Theresa stroking
Matthew’s head in a hospital emergency room, for instance, or Abby lowering her defenses after
a terrifying night. At its best, this gentle, lovely new play leaves you not just touched, but
more sensitive to the value of touch itself.”
Adam Feldman , TimeOut New York
Ms. Fodor has a fine sense of the forms of emotional aggression, passive and otherwise,
that can infuse even the most banal exchanges between parents and children at
loggerheads, as well as a good ear for the kinks and curls of speech of people of different
generations and education. These gifts are most appealingly on display in the early scenes that
set up these fractious relationships. A Scrabble game between Colleen and Matthew, newly
returned to the home where he grew up, becomes a deft and touching exercise in thwarted
communication. A standard stalemate debate between Abby and Theresa on the usual teenager-
parent subjects (school, sex, bad influences) has a piquant ring of realness that keeps it from
congealing into clichés.”
Ben Brantley, New York Times
Fodor is blessed with a handsome production. Her play's many short scenes are sensitively
and fluidly staged by Ethan McSweeney. Rachel Hauck's elegant rotating set (gorgeously lit
by Jane Cox) effectively avoids the too many stark blackouts typical of this structure. The five
excellent actors succeed in making the most of their characters' vulnerabilities and downplaying
their essentially standard issue qualities.”
Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp
“Kate Fodor, bless her sympathetic soul, has just the right qualities. Her thoughtful and affecting
100 Saints You Should Know begins with Theresa (Janel Moloney) scrubbing a toilet. There’s
something so direct, so matter-of-fact about showing her on the job—most plays of this kind
would just have her complaining about it to her alienated kid—that Fodor’s story ennobles her,
like a Dutch master immortalizing a laundress at work…All of this might have yielded little
more than a Raymond Carver story if not for an exquisite cast, expertly directed by Ethan
McSweeny. Thanks to some go-for-broke choices, impressive young Zoe Kazan makes the
daughter seem part cherub and part imp—a touchingly vulnerable hellion.”
Jeremy McCarter, New York Magazine
by Jason Grote
Denver Center Theatre Company • January 2007
Denver Post Ovation Award, Rocky Mountain News Best of 2007
Helmer McSweeny pull out all the stops to carry Grote’s Google-inspired mental hopscotch
onto the stage. He employs one of Denver’s top DJ’s, Sara Thurston, for a live mix that taps into
contemporary emotions latent in the hybrid storyline, a potent lure for the twentysomething
demographic. Building on the extravagant embellishments gathered under the collective literary
umbrella known as “The Arabian Nights” playwright Jason Grote delivers a phantasmagoric take
on the timeless tales in “1001,” explored to visual and emotional perfection by director
Ethan McSweeny and the cast and crewThirty-one economical scenes punctuated by
stunning craft work lend a quick-cutting, cinematic texture that suggests possible
adaptability to the bigscreen.”
Bob Bows, Variety
“Innovative spectacle…dazzling staging. McSweeny and his completely winning young
ensemble of six newcomers employ novel staging concepts that would make Julie Taymor
John Moore, Denver Post
Director Ethan McSweeny meets the playwright’s challenge with a production as
inventive as the script: trap doors, luxe costumes, the transformative dance of sex under a
blue parachute and a Cirque de Soleil death plunge increase the comedy and the
otherworldliness, as well as comment on that exoticism. McSweeny provides one more bit of
luxury and energy with DJ Sara Thurston, who mixes contemporary and Eastern strains
throughout the evening. Like everything else in this show, it is both ancient and immediate,
celebratory and mournful, fact and fiction.”
Lisa Borenstein, Rocky Mountain News
by Anton Chekhov
The Chautauqua Theater Company • July 2006
Marvelous!…Director Ethan McSweeny strikes the ideal balance between comedy and
tragedy…[he] finds that curious intermingling of feeling that makes Chekhov seem both funny
and sad at once… Lisa Harrow brilliantly injects into the role several wholly new jolts of irony
that point up the utter purposelessness of this diminished aristocrat…Stuart Margolin’s
ebullience, his antics, his cowed silence – it’s all a joy to watch…The surface of this
production shimmers with well-measured comedy, even as a distant melancholy hums
steadily underneath…I suspect Chekhov himself would find the interpretation endlessly
amusing to watch.”
Richard Huntington, The Buffalo News
“A masterful performance of a dramatic masterpiece…universal and emotionally resonant.”
Dave Zuchowski, The Erie Times
A gossamer beauty…subtle and delicate and profound.”
Robert Plyler, Jamestown Post-Journal
A stunning production.”
Willard Spiegelman, Wall Street Journal
by Aeschylus, new version by Ellen McLaughlin
The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington DC• March-May, 2006
Director Ethan McSweeny cuts a stunning path to this turning point of ‘The Persians.’ At the
back of the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s stage, Erin Gann’s Xerxes , the callow king,
materializes. As he begins to walk forward a fine spray of scarlet sand rains down on him … It’s
a potent moment in McSweeny’s acutely theatrical take on this 2,500-year-old play. The
evening that results is elegiac, somber, [and] invigorated by several actors of particular
finesse, vivid turns of phrase, and some inspired bits of staging.
Peter Marks, The Washington Post
Triumphant! McSweeny packs plenty of spectacle in both the show’s physical aspects and the
forthright potency of Aeschylus’s descriptions of the carnage of war; they contain a harrowing
beauty that grips the senses.”
Jayne Blanchard, The Washington Times
When a playwright’s message is dire, it’s useful to have a few theatrical miracles to back it
up, and Ethan McSweeny’s breathtaking mounting of The Persians has plenty. There’s the
stagewide cyclorama that lets the director blast Western literature’s oldest surviving play into
orbit, Google Earth–style, just as it’s getting under way; the beach of red sand that morphs from
a lush Persian carpet into a sea of gore; the mirrored wall of lights that seems simply utilitarian
until it’s time to bake the play’s warmongers in disgrace; and the startling, climactic rain of
blood that rattles whatever part of a playgoer’s psyche Aeschylus hasn’t already rattled
with words that echo across more than two millennia of human folly. McSweeny
orchestrates a rush of images that are alternately majestic (the queen’s arrival) and worthy
of a horror film (red sand dripping like blood through her fingers)…Still, the director and
his performers have created one moment of fiercely personal tension at the play’s climax. It
comes when Xerxes kneels in disgrace before his mother and she starts to reach out toward him.
For a long, wrenching moment, it’s not clear whether she’s reaching out in fury at the pain
he’s caused or in compassion for the pain he’s in, and after so much declaimed agony, so
much breath-catching imagery, this private moment catches the audience up short. The
director prolongs the suspense for an extra couple of beats and—as the sheer emotional
rawness expands to fill the auditorium—almost seems to point the way to the more intimate
theater we know today.
Bob Mondello, Washington City Paper
by Lee Blessing
The Old Globe Theatre • February-March, 2006
San Diego Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Best Play, and Best Ensemble
“[A] deftly acted, meticulously directed and beautifully designed production…Director
Ethan McSweeny underscores the farcical elements in Blessing’s script, an aspect of tone probed
astutely by Sandy Duncan… Blessing’s play is an all-American family drama…a drawing room
tragic-farce [and] what a drawing room it is…[an] austere platform of dark planks with matching
coffee table and a few white and chrome designer chairs floats on four pools of aquamarine
water which York Kennedy’s lighting set to shimmering. [McSweeny] also creates a rain
shower that is magical. Michael Roth’s original music – for stings, female voices and the
virtuoso Peter Sprague on guitar – creates similar effects … For the playwright, “A Body of
Water” represents a breakthrough toward a more distilled and abstract form of
Anne Marie Welsh, San Diego Union-Tribune
McSweeny has elicited exciting portrayals of calm at the edge of reason as well as crack
creative work from his designers … [especially] an unforgettable sequence when, between
two Act II scenes, the windows lower into the pools instead of rising. When the panes are
pulled up to haunting piano accompaniment, the perforated troughs along the bottom
create sheets of rain. It’s a powerful and ominous image …”
“A nicely shaped and handsomely designed West Coast premiere…Director Ethan McSweeny
coaxes excellent, well-calibrated performances from all three actors, most notably Duncan, who
manages to dispel memories of her perky, plucky stage and screen persona with a nuanced and
wry ensemble turn.“
Jennifer de Poyen, Variety
by Arthur Miller
Chautauqua Theater Company • July 2005
A shattering performance…brilliantly directed by Ethan McSweeny and superbly
performed by a strong cast of professional and conservatory actors…The production compares
favorably with shows I saw this summer at the Stratford and Shaw festivals in Canada.”
Wilma Salisbury, The Cleveland Plain-Dealer
A superb production…the cast is excellent…Harrow is spellbinding…Margolin is the perfect
counterpoint…Charles Semine is powerful and memorable…McSweeny’s staging is unfailingly
sharp throughout… [he] gives this first outing a visceral excitement and emotional coherence
that promise great things for the future.”
Richard Huntington, The Buffalo News
“Sucks the audience into an emotionally gripping story [that] holds you in rapt attention, arcing
its way to its devastating conclusion with the momentum of destiny … A powerful debut for
the new artistic team.
Dave Zuchowski, The Erie Times
There is stunning, breathtaking theater on stage at Chautauqua this week…If Ethan
McSweeny’s first production as artistic director is typical of what audiences can now expect at
Chautauqua Theater, tickets are going to be sold out months in advance for every performance
they present…See this production, if you possibly can!”
Robert Plyler, Jamestown Post-Journal
by Lee Blessing
Guthrie Theater • June-July, 2005
Best New Play, Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Guthrie production, directed by frequent Blessing collaborator Ethan McSweeny,
develops an autumnal chill that nicely complements the plays sorrowful undertow. Dead
leaves swirl outside a giant picture window that overlooks an endless, indistinct expanse of water
[and] falling shadows hint at the primordial fear that night will swallow all memory.”
Peter Ritter, Variety
Director Ethan McSweeny again teams with Blessing to produce a smooth, seamless
staging. McSweeny finds the mordant humor in the piece and shapes and blends the
performances so that characters and audience alike spend the evening at the brink of
understanding, which is right where the playwright wants us.”
Dominic Papatola, Pioneer Press
by Willy Holtzman
Primary Stages • January-February, 2005
Sex! Madness! Scandal! Horny psychiatrists! Given back her voice in Ethan
McSweeny’s handsome revival, [Sabina Spielrein] makes an eloquent case for
herself…McSweeny milks the pre-coital buildup in the first act [and] Ireland and Slezak go for
the psychosexual gold when Sabina iniates Jung into her seductive theories of the death
Marylin Stasio, Variety
Engrossing! Ethan McSweeny’s production … provides a provocative window into the
much-studied relationship between Freud and Jung. Peter Strauss gives an admirably
understated performances as a paternalistic Freud and Victor Slezak, as Jung, likewise gives
persuasive dramatic life to a now-mythic figure. Mark Wendland’s cleanly constructed set
depicts human emotion coloring an institutional space. The conflict between scientific and
human necessities expressed in the play is echoed in the contrast between the lush red-velvet
curtains that define the playing area and the gray metal beams and girders that loom above
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
Director Ethan McSweeny and designer Mark Wendland have created a production that,
despite a smallish stage, has the physical sweep to match Holtzman’s thirty-year spanning
psycho-drama…Marin Ireland gives a riveting performance…McSweeny is a director who
knows how to reinforce and further the action with all sorts of inventive touches. The placement
of violinist Batya MacAdam-Somer at the front side of the balcony, if full view of the audience
to play Michael Roth’s lovely original music enhances what’s happening on the stage but
without distraction. McSweeny’s creative approach to Holtzman’s emotionally charged and
often amusing faction make for two hours of lively theater.”
Curtain Up
“[Willy] Holtzman delivers a subtly provocative and even charmingly funny play which has been
richly realized in this production directed with chic panache by Ethan McSweeny”
Talkin’ Broadway
Music by David Friedman, Book and Lyrics by Peter Kellog
Prince Music Theater • December-January, 2004/5
Ten Barrymore Award Nominations, including Best Director, Best Musical
“HILARIOUS! A Funny Thing and The Producers are fast company to travel in, but this new
show at the Prince Music more than keeps up…the high-quality script and score are
presented in a top-notch production directed by Ethan McSweeny. Led by Bronson Pinchot
in the principal comic role, the cast is uniformly strong, Neil Patel’s settings are colorful and
comically effective, and Constance Hoffman’s costumes evoke the period with flair.”
Douglas J Keating, Philadelphia Inquirer
“’Crime is up employment down and still our taxes soar…’ The year is 1224, the ‘modern
times’ of this appealing musical, and – despite its Big Issues (‘race, religion, color, class, and
money’) – the temptation to make it relevant is cleverly resisted. Performed by a uniformly fine
cast, ‘Chasing Nicolette’ is both melodic and witty – all the dialogue is in couplets and a can-
you-top-this game develops as we wait for the next impossible rhyme – but the show is goofy
too, and likely to appeal to kids as well as adults.”
Toby Zinman, Variety
“This musical has it all…the kind of show they mean when people ask, “why don’t they
make musicals like they used to?” Ethan McSweeny directs with verve, pulling together the
action, pacing, music, and visual components.”
Kathryn Oselund, Curtain Up
by Frank MacGuinness
Westport Country Playhouse • June-July, 2004
“Those seeking an intense brilliantly presented performance should make the trip to watch the
Westport Country Playhouse’s ‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.’
Elizabeth Gerteiny, Weston Forum
Looming silences are key, perfectly times and injected…It is a sparseness that under the
direction of Ethan McSweeny beautifully focuses attention on the intense and heart-wrenching
voice the actors give to their characters’ respective wisdom, kindness, and strength.”
Camilla Herrera, The Stamford Advocate
by Noah Haidle
South Coast Repertory Theater • April-May, 2004
OCIE Award for Best Production
“The name ‘Mr. Marmalade’ is the only sweet, tasty, and benign aspect of South Coast
Repertory’s controversial world-premiere play. In the best sequence of this production,
superbly directed by Ethan McSweeny, Adams opens his oversize trench coat (a costume
triumph for Angela Balogh Calin) and pours out mountainous amounts of junk food stolen from
7-Eleven, then proudly organizes a dinner of treats for himself and Lucy”
Joel Hirschorn, Variety
“…All of this might be a bit too horrifying if Haidle, director Ethan McSweeny and the
designers weren’t continually reminding viewers that what’s unfolding onstage is merely make
Darryl H. Miller, The Los Angeles Times
Director Ethan McSweeny has worked hard with Nagel and Adams. Their performances
are childlike, not childish; they don’t resort to the kind of surface brattiness and over-the-
top physicality some adult actors employ when playing kids.”
Paul Hodgins, The Orange County Register
by William Shakespeare
The Guthrie Theatre • March-May, 2004
A symphony! Director Ethan McSweeny’s Guthrie Theater credits range from the revelatory
(‘Gross Indecency’) to the sublime (last year’s breathtaking ‘Six Degrees of Separation’). With
‘Romeo and Juliet’ the young visionary displays similar imagination and ambition.”
Rohan Preston, Minneapolis Star Tribune
OUTSTANDING! McSweeny has placed the action in a mysterious place, a simultaneously
dilapidated and glamorous construction site/abandoned movie theater, and he and the designers
have created a hip, temporal salad.”
Dylan Hicks, City Pages
McSweeny’s ambitious and intelligent production moves seamlessly between low comedy
and high tragedy … [he] creates stage images that illuminate Shakespeare’s language and
open up the text for a contemporary audience … Set and costume designer Mark Wendland’s
visual vocabulary for the show is incredible. The set looks like Ground Zero: a stage of wooden
planking surrounded by ‘ashes;’ three stories of metal scaffolding and plastic sheeting extending
back stage; a gothic cathedral-like tower becomes the balcony, marriage bed, and tomb; old
theater seats live upstage and amongst the ashes. [The] production … brilliantly evokes the
sense of devastation, destruction, and dread that’s become our universal screensaver over
the last few years; it also reminds us that passionate love can transform this bitter
landscape into one of reconciliation and renewal.”
Michelle Pett, Talkin’ Broadway
McSweeny’s brooding production is perhaps the most daring of recent Shakespearean
ventures at the Guthrie…[he] returns some of the daring that Dowling’s crowd-pleasing
productions too often lack; that he does so with a play that inevitably draws crowds suggests that
we may at last be seeing a successful marriage between box office savvy and theatrical
experimentation. McSweeny’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ calls attention to itself as an act of
theater; it demands that we consider how tragedy is constructed – onstage and off.”
Douglas E. Green, The Shakespeare Quarterly
by Lee Blessing
George Street Playhouse • November 2003
One of this season’s most satisfying nights in the theater…Thanks to director Ethan
McSweeny and two astonishing actors it’s now receiving a better production at the George
Street Playhouse than it did on Broadway 15 years ago… A Walk in the Woods is not an easy
play to direct, but McSweeny gets the juice out of the comedy, then switches gears nicely to the
second act when things inevitably get more serious. Who’d think that a play about a treaty could
be such a treat?”
Peter Filicia, The New Jersey Star-Ledger
Everything that makes the theater absorbing is present in the George Street Playhouse
production of Lee Blessing’s drama ‘A Walk in the Woods.’ Ethan McSweeny directs with
delicacy made necessary by the filo-like layers of interpretations and personality Blessing has
written into the drama. McSweeny makes unusually effective use of several moments in which
silence and stillness communicate as effectively as words … A brilliant play, powerful actors,
skillful direction, evocative design – we can’t ask for more than this.”
Charles Paolino, Home New Tribune
by Aeschylus, a new version by Ellen McLaughlin
National Actors Theater • May-June, 2003
Excellent! A terrific and rare piece of theater.”
Donald Lyons, The New York Post
Timely… Relevant… Heart-wrenching … Terrifying … a true classic. We see the present
and the future right there, inside the past. Ellen McLaughlin serves and uses “The Persians” with
true power and grace. She is well served by the lean, stark production. Aeschylus emphasized
that the gods shaped our fates. Ms McLaughlin concentrates on our own actions. Goaded by
pride and greed, we invite the fate and nature to do their worst, the gods are not to blame.
Director Ethan McSweeny makes each detail embody this theme.
Margo Jefferson, The New York Times
by John Guare
The Guthrie Theater • March-April, 2003
Winner Best Director, Best Production, Minneapolis Star-Tribune Award
What director Ethan McSweeny and his brilliant team of designers and performers have
achieved with Six Degrees of Separation is magnificent. You can wait a long time to
experience something like this – the Guthrie Theater’s most inspired and sublime
production in years. Director McSweeny has chosen to play ‘Six Degrees’ simple, a winning
choice that underscores the dualities of the play…The themes are reflected in the artistic palette
here, with portals that resemble frames, with Christine Jones’ simple, circular set that seems like
a layer cake with a slice cut out, with Jane Cox’s brilliant lighting design… All of this makes
‘Six Degrees’ a harmony of colors and lights that seem like visual music … This ‘Six
Degrees’ is a lot like falling in love – except you never catch yourself as you sit in your chair at
the Guthrie, but keep falling deeper, laughing all the way. Thank you McSweeny, Christine
Jones, Jane Cox and the rest of your terrific team. Thank you to the performers who are
so clearly in the moment and enjoying themselves in this production, which is one for the
theater history books.”
Rohan Preston Minneapolis Star Tribune
Great theater is worth revisiting. For proof, see the Guthrie Theater’s engaging production of
‘Six Degrees of Separation,’ a 13-year-old play that already bears the trappings of a superb
period piece. When I first saw the show 12 years ago I was struck by its power as a statement
about black and white, rich and poor. Now, it stands as a moving, almost cautionary tale about
failure and redemption, and how we create genuine meaning in our lives. The layers of
connection, privilege, and lack are still there, of course, mined beautifully in director Ethan
McSweeny’s production. But, like all good theater, the play presents its themes subtly
enough for us to discover them for ourselves and interpret them intimately.”
Carolyn Petrie, St. Paul Pioneer Press
by Claudia Shear
George Street Playhouse/Wilma Theatre • September-November, 2002
“Perceptive and deeply moving…Mr. McSweeny, whose insight and flair – theatrical and in
this case cinematic – appear boundless, adorns the star segments with onscreen moments
that are sure to create Mae West converts among the audience. [He] fuses the play’s parallel
plot lines into a seamless whole. More than in the original staging of the Ms. Shear’s play, Mr.
McSweeny explores the depth of what often seems like a clever crowd pleaser. West’s downhill
slide from grandeur to self-parody is unstintingly documented, never for a cheap laugh.
Everything about this “Dirty Blonde” comes as a surprise.
Alvin Klein, The New York Times
by Lee Blessing
The Guthrie Theater • February-March 2002
“Powerful! Their young love ripped apart by violent circumstances, Gil and Ray spend much of
the rest of their lives missing each other in Lee Blessing’s ‘Thief River.’ At the end the young
couple and their older versions share the stage simultaneously in a tremendously moving
tableau, the poignancy of which is heightened by a powerful final effect – pages of letters
falling like snow.”
Claude Peck, Minneapolis Star Tribune
by Anthony Clarvoe
George Street Playhouse • March-April, 2002
Best of 2002, New Jersey Star Ledger
“Cinematic… Crafty plot twists…Delightful surprises! From the first sleek second the play is a
whir of fast-forward motion. Mr. McSweeny is an interpretive whiz who knows how to elicit
the best in play and players.
Alvin Klein, The New York Times
“Don’t be surprised if Clarvoe’s serious comedy about serious money becomes another New
Jersey-to-New York Wall Street smash. It’s a much better portrait of the business world and
contains more funny lines than Neil Simon gave his comedies in his prime. Director Ethan
McSweeny has whipped his production into a lightning-fast pace, and sure found the right actors
to perform it. The result is the edgiest, hippest show that George Street has ever attempted.”
Peter Filicia, The Star Ledger
“The subtle fury of the play’s narrative is acutely accented by McSweeny’s crisp staging.”
Robert L. Daniels, Variety
by Harold Pinter
George Street Playhouse • March-April, 2001
“Ethan McSweeny has a lucid grasp of the elusive Pinter style, and the George Street
production is remarkably accessible, free of affectations. Mr. McSweeny appears more
interested in the gaze – a word Mr. Pinter emphasizes in his text – than in the pause. Precisely
timed gazes and glances of three excellent actors exude dramatic tension beyond explanation into
the sheerly experiential.”
Alvin Klein, The New York Times
“In Ethan McSweeny’s excellent new production, the characters peel off each other’s
emotions as if they’re layers of skin, ever so slowly. That’s the more thorough and painful
way. McSweeny recently signed on as associate artistic director at he playhouse, where he’ll
stage a play a year. Here’s hoping that each of his productions will be as potent as this one.”
Peter Filicia, The Star-Ledger
by Margaret Edson
Pittsburgh Public Theatre • November-December, 2000
Winner, Best Production, Pittsburgh Post Gazette Award
Lisa Harrow [gives] a performance that is towering, impish, growling, and relentlessly no-
holds-barred…[Harrow’s Vivian Bearing] is human granite. But gradually the cancer and its
treatment wear her down. And a marvelous thing happens: Harrow’s hurricane force diminished,
she turns out to be even more effective reduced to solitary weakness, indecision, and human
need. Though Harrow seems a force of self-generating nature, director Ethan McSweeny
must have had a lot to do with sculpting her performance. He orchestrates beautiful
support, both in acting and design.”
Christopher Rawson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Director Ethan McSweeny’s staging clarifies the links between Donne’s poetry and Edson’s
clinicians. His steady hand holds the show together, knowing instinctively when to slow the
pace to a near standstill and when to ratchet up the tension and stride. Much credit goes to
set designer Mark Wendland and lighting designer Frances Aronson for their ability to transform
a single playing space into a seamless series of laboratories, classrooms, hospital rooms, and
offices. The clinical setting is enhanced by the best use of the auditorium’s back wall since the
O’Reilly was inaugurated.”
Alice T. Carter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
by Gore Vidal
The Virginia Theatre • September-January, 2000/1
Outer Critics Circle & Drama Desk Awards for Best Revival, Tony Award Nomination
A sophisticated, elegant, and damnably entertaining play.”
John Lahr, The New Yorker
“This play makes you wish that Vidal were writing the dialogue for the Presidential debates.
You can sense from the audiences laughter that some of the play’s lines are sure to be repeated at
cocktail parties this election season.”
Ben Brantley, The New York Times
Beautifully acted and fast-paced, with effervescent, sparkling dialogue, The Best Man is fun!
Vote for Vidal!”
Clive Barnes, New York Post
“A superb cast! McSweeny mines the play for all its drama and humor, using effective
theatrical touches to convey the political and journalistic hysteria surrounding the process.
Adding further verisimilitude is the voice of Walter Cronkite as a news commentator; the return
of his reassuring tone is a vivid reminder of what we’ve been missing for several years.”
Frank Bobeck, The Hollywood Reporter
“Wonderful entertainment, smart sexy and compelling, with blistering and fantastically prescient
observations, it couldn’t be more timely.”
Liz Smith, Newsday
by Warren Leight
The Guthrie Theater • May, 2000
The Guthrie’s production of this audience pleaser has almost everything going for it.
Director Ethan McSweeny has staged the show as a tight and melodious jam session,
seamlessly moving from scene to scene…Stripes of neon light dangle over designer John
Arnone’s set like notes in the air…Stephanie Zimbalist’s vivid, warts-and-all performance helps
keep it real…the Guthrie’s triumverate of great male character actors – Stephen Pelinksi,
Stephen Yoakum, and Richard Iglewski – are great to watch.”
Carolyn Petrie, Minneapolis Star-Tribune,
by Martin McDonagh
The Alley Theatre • January-February, 1999
Fiercely effective! Ethan McSweeny has directed the Alley’s production with steady pace
and sensitivity to the play’s shifting moods. [The production] restores – or for those who
never cease believing, re-confirms – faith in theater as a vibrant art form.”
Everett Evans, The Houston Chronicle
A rich and luscious addition to Houston’s theatrical season! [The play’s] disparate elements
are brought into focus with Ethan McSweeny’s intelligent and seamless direction and with Kevin
Rigdon’s heartbreaking set.”
Lee Williams, Houston Press
by Moises Kaufmann
The Guthrie Theater • November, 1998
“There’s a moment in “Gross Indecency” when the famous writer’s glibness betrays him on the
witness stand. Asked by the prosecutor if he had ever kissed a particular young man, Wilde says
no: the fellow was too ugly. Then, in a chillingly effective piece of staging, the eight other men
in the courtroom rise in unison, leaning in silent disbelief and indictment … McSweeny makes
the audience the jury, staging the court-room action between two banks of bleacher-style
seats and using the whole venue, including the aisles, to make the drama immediate.”
Rohan Preston, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
by Tony Kushner
Berkeley Repertory Theater • September-October, 1998
“Not quite a major work, but far from a minor one, ‘Hydriotaphia’ shows off its author’s
dazzling intellect, wit, and ambition to richly enjoyable effect. Certainly a better production
couldn’t be asked for than director Ethan McSweeny’s. He does a brilliant job negotiating
so many complex textual demands, and heroically creates a sense of constant activity that
nearly hides the work’s one-set, sickbed-focused physical stasis. The set is excellent, topped
by [Jonathan] Hadary’s conniving yet pitiable Browne.”
Dennis Harvey, Variety
conceived by Floyd King and Ethan McSweeny
Folger Theatre • May, 1998
“King and director Ethan McSweeny have strung together Shakespearean parodies,
reminiscences and songs by a variety of authors … McSweeny pulls the evening’s disparate
elements into a graceful whole. And he has worked closely with [set designer Dan] Conway
and lighting designer Howell Binkley to ensure that the show takes place in a wonderful space.”
Lloyd Rose, The Washington Post
by Pierre Marivaux, translated by Stephen Wadsworth
Washington Shakespeare Company • January-February 1998
Having chilled spines in ‘Never the Sinner’ director Ethan McSweeny now proceeds to
tickle fancies with a delightful production of Pierre Marivaux’s ‘The Triumph of Love.’
It’s svelte, civilized entertainment, wittily designed and buoyantly acted.”
Lloyd Rose, The Washington Post
“As in McSweeny’s recent staging of the equivalently scattered Leopold and Loeb opus ‘Never
the Sinner’ for Signature Theatre, the directorial emphasis on focus – both visual and
thematic – is remarkable…Though the stage is wide open – a neat mix of modernist design and
classical elements so fractured they appear to have barely survived an earthquake – your eye is
forever being drawn to certain spots just before characters arrive at them…Marivaux may have
been lampooning the rigidity of thought of the Enlightenment, but McSweeny has found
ways for him to so while adhering to all the rules.”
Bob Mondello, Washington City Paper
by John Logan
John Houseman Theater • January-May 1998
American Jewish Theater • December - January 1997/98
Signature Theater, Washington, DC • September-October 1997
Winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play
Four additional OCC and Five Drama Desk Nominations including Best Director
Five Helen Hayes Award Nominations including Best Play and Best Director
“In John Logan’s remarkable play, Clarence Darrow tells a judge that Richard Loeb and Nathan
Leopold, who murdered a 14-year-old boy in 1924 were “much like all of us.” The emotion and
intellectual force of the production owes as much to the direction of Ethan McSweeny and his
cast as to the author. The secret of its power in Mr. McSweeny’s handling of it is a rejection
of sensationalism in presenting one of the most sensational crimes of the 1920’s. The cast is
up to the formidable demands Mr. McSweeny makes on it for adroitness.”
D. J. R. Bruckner, The New York Times
“A great evening of theatre…One of the year’s best!…An excellent and compelling
play…The present production could hardly be bettered – Ethan McSweeny’s hair-
triggered staging takes the play and runs with it. Enthralling and exceptional!”
Clive Barnes, The New York Post
“Ethan McSweeny’s crisp, intelligent staging gives the play a resonance that could well
echo today’s headlines…As the destructive neurotics bonded in a purposeless crime, Solomon
and Bowcutt offer a tandem tour de force…The re-enactment of the murder and the disposal
of the boy’s body is chilling, and it is followed by a victorious of death to the strains of
‘After You’ve Gone’ that is positively numbing.”
Robert L. Daniels, Variety
“‘Sinner’ is a winner! Explosive, hypnotic, timely, fascinating. A superb production. On its
own, the play could have a merely documentary feel. But Ethan McSweeny’s superb
production unfolds with a hypnotic rhythm.”
Fintan O’Toole, New York Daily News
“John Logan’s ‘Never the Siner’ is a theatrical whirlwind! Two stunning leading
performances by Jason Bowcutt and Michael Solomon and amazingly inventive direction
by Ethan McSweeny.”
Dennis Cunningham, CBS-TV
“Sexy, Psychologically compelling and visually striking.”
Bill Stevenson, Entertainment Weekly
Riveting! A taut, passionate psycho-sexual waltz.”
Michael Sommers, Newhouse Newspapers
McSweeny more or less treats the play as if it were a snake and himself and the audience
the hypnotized rabbits…McSweeny not only gives it theatrical vibrancy with his mannered
but taut direction, he fills it out with his own uneasy, ambivalent reaction to the material.
McSweeny has for several seasons been an assistant director to the Shakespeare Theater’s
Michael Kahn, and no doubt learned some of his impressive visual technique from him. But a
director can’t be taught to how to fuse with a script like this, so that his own reaction becomes
part of the drama. The fashion in today’s theater is to bully an audience, shake it up, or at least,
stare it down. But McSweeny is with the audience, mesmerized by the awful mystery at the
heart of this material.”
Lloyd Rose, The Washington Post