The Geffen Playhouse's world premiere stage adaptation of The Exorcist features Brooke Shields and Richard Chamberlain in the iconic roles of Chris MacNeil and Father Merrin, respectively, as well as Broadway actor David Wilson Barnes as the troubled young priest Father Damien Karras, Tony Award nominee Harry Groener takes on the role of Chris' charismatic director Burke Dennings and UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television graduate Emily Yetter plays the young Regan MacNeil.
The world premiere cast also includes Stephen Bogardus, Manoel Felciano, Tom Nelis and Roslyn Ruff. The play is written by John Pielmeier adapted from the novel by William Peter Blatty, and is directed by John Doyle.
The production opened on Wednesday, and the reviews are in. Find out what the critics thought below!
Charles McNulty, The LA Times: Two questions immediately presented themselves when it was announced that "The Exorcist" was going to be done onstage: How? And why? At the show's premiere Wednesday at the Geffen Playhouse, the creators seemed to be searching for answers to these challenges. God doesn't appear to be on their side. The physical production is just so much more persuasive than the dramatic encounters contained within it...Everything is a tad over-explained. If one rationale seems a little dubious, he'll drop in a second and perhaps even a third. Consequently, the colloquies between characters grow tedious, stuffed as they are with artificial import.
Josh Rottenberg, Entertainment Weekly: This rather stiff and somber production is largely devoted to delivering abstract messages about God and doubt and the importance of hope in the face of evil. The actors (who never leave the stage) do their best within the confines of Doyle's overly mannered approach but are rarely able to work up much convincing emotion. The result may not be a Carrie: The Musical-style disaster, but, unlike Satan, this Exorcist never works its way inside of you and really takes hold. (Grade: C)
Bob Verini, Variety: The Geffen's updated stage adaptation clearly hopes helmer John Doyle's theatricality will compensate for cinematic pea-soup vomit and a moppet's spinning head, but his black magic never quite rises to the spine-chilling. Those not intensely interested in Blatty's unified field theory of good and evil are likely to perceive this self-conscious religioso exercise as a case of bait-and-switch...Chamberlain fares even worse, sauntering in periodically to describe encounters with evil informed by Blatty's occult research. His bland, amiable manner is reminiscent of the narrator in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Travis Michael Holder, Backstage: In the debut of the Geffen Playhouse's star-studded adaptation of William Peter Blatty's novel-for which from the inception the author has aspired to keep the special effects to a minimum and concentrate on the story's underlying theme of good versus evil-some aspects succeed like gangbusters, while others fall desperately short. On the plus side is Doyle's stark staging, which keeps the actors onstage whether they are in a scene or not. Under Jane Cox's dim, spooky lighting, they lurk as spectral figures behind set designer Scott Pask's filigreed wrought-iron cage...but the glaringly inadequate Richard Chamberlain-who finds none of exorcist Father Merrin's strength or weary disillusionment-drags this production into the depths of theatrical Hades. If the Geffen hadn't resorted to trick casting and borrowing Teller from Penn Jillette to consult on the frustratingly negligible visual effects, Pielmeier's desired simplicity might have had a chance.