Reviews: What Do Critics Think of Off-Broadway's Des Moines? | Playbill

The Verdict Reviews: What Do Critics Think of Off-Broadway's Des Moines?

Denis Johnson's dark comedy stars Hari Nef, Tony nominees Michael Shannon and Johanna Day, Heather Alicia Simms, and Arliss Howard at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center.

Hari Nef and Michael Shannon in rehearsal for Des Moines Hollis King

Reviews are coming in for Theatre for a New Audience's Des Moines starring two-time Tony nominee Johanna Day (Sweat, Proof) and Oscar, Golden Globe, and Tony nominee Michael Shannon (Knives Out, Long Day’s Journey into Night). Following delays due to COVID, the production began previews December 10 and opened December 16 at Off-Broadway's Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Performances are set through January 1.

Denis Johnson's dark comedy brings five characters together in Des Moines, Iowa through chance events—including a plane crash, a rescued wedding ring, and a frightening diagnosis. Complete with karaoke, liquor, and sex, the play "confronts death, mortality, and the stubborn pursuit of grace among those who barely believe in it."

Read the reviews here.

New York Stage Review (Frank Scheck)

The New York Times (Maya Phillips)*

Theater Pizzazz (Ron Fassler)

Theatermania (Pete  Hempstead)

Vulture (Jackson McHenry)*

*This review requires creating a free account or a paid subscription.

Playbill will continue to update this list as reviews come in.

Also starring in the cast are Heather Alicia Simms (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, A Raisin in the Sun), Arliss Howard (Mank, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone), and Hari Nef (“Daddy”, Transparent).

Director Arin Arbus helms the production and the creative team comprised of scenic designer Riccardo Hernández (Jagged Little Pill), costume designer Qween Jean (Wedding Band), lighting designer Scott Zielinski, sound designer Mikaal Sulaiman (Macbeth), and choreographer Byron Easley (Slave Play).

Des Moines originally made its world premiere in 2007 at San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts, following which it was further developed by Johnson until 2013. In 2015, Arbus worked with Johnson on the director's first exploration of the play via a TFANA workshop.

For tickets and more information, visit

Go inside rehearsals with the gallery below.

Step Inside the Rehearsal Room for Denis Johnson's Des Moines


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