The reviews are in for ‘Embers’ at the Guthrie Theater

Embers is the third and final play in the Guthrie Theater’s Christopher Hampton Celebration. Embers is based on the novel by Sándor Márai, and concerns a friendship rent asunder, revisited decades later.

Critics are split in their reviews of this show, with some calling it “beautiful,” “taut drama,” and others finding it “indifferent to its audience” and barely flickering with life.

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James A. Stephens as Henrik in the Guthrie Theater’s production of Embers, by Christopher Hampton

Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp

From Janet Preus at HowWasTheShow.com:

Beautiful, sad and absorbing, this is a piece to be pondered and savored – a leisurely and delicious meal of several courses, each one more satisfying than the last.

From Ed Huyck at City Pages:

In Embers, Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Sandor Marai’s World-War-II-era novel, two men who were inseparable friends for more than two decades meet after 41 years apart. The mystery of what caused the estrangement is played out in this often taut drama, centering on a solid performance from James A. Stephens as the aggrieved and supported by Nathaniel Fuller and Barbara Bryne in smaller but still vital roles.

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Nathaniel Fuller as Konrad in the Guthrie Theater’s production of Embers, by Christopher Hampton

Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp

From Dominic P. Papatola at the Pioneer Press:

With the opening of “Embers” in the Dowling Studio, all cylinders are now engaged in the Guthrie Theater’s celebration of the work of British playwright Christopher Hampton. This last work is the smallest of the lot and is also, unfortunately, the least satisfying.

Barbara Bryne has a tiny role as the maid and nurse Nini — a few lines at the very beginning of the play and a few more at the very end. It’s an extravagant, wasteful use of an actress, particularly one as revered as Bryne. But it’s a good metaphor for the play: Like its central character of Henrik, “Embers” is obsessed with itself and indifferent to its audience.

From Rohan Preston at the Star Tribune:


Like parts of “Hollywood,” “Embers” feels like a novel being enacted onstage. It does not take advantage of the unique opportunities that a three-dimensional space has to offer.

Fuller invests Konrad with some droll, morose humor. He makes this supporting character empathetic. Still, it is not enough for “Embers,” a show that barely flickers to theatrical life.

Have you seen Guthrie Theater’s production of Embers? What’s your review?

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