The cast of “The Exorcist” at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

The physical production is just so much more persuasive than the dramatic encounters contained within it. The casting of Brooke Shields, lovely as always to look at, doesn’t enhance the work’s credibility, although I think she would be terrific in an alternative camp version directed by John Waters. Playing actress Chris MacNeil, the bewildered mother of the havoc-raising child, Shields lends her lines a B-movie obviousness that cries out for an exorcism of a different kind, one requiring the mystical skills of an acting coach rather than a priest.
Charles McNulty – LA Times

The problem is that Pielmeier doesn’t trust the story, going so far as to drop the subplot involving a police detective investigating a murder. Too much time is spent on religious discourse; main characters are saddled with mannered dialogue that often has them brooding about the nature of good and evil. Why not just tell us the story and let us take away from it what we will?
Tony Frankel – Stage and Cinema

Right now “The Exorcist” is a potentially noteworthy effort that no matter how richly produced or safely cast is still an incomplete work in progress.
Travis Michael Holder – Backstage

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..
Bob Verini – Variety

Unfortunately, Doyle feels the need to hit us with some late-story gore, as if to make up for a relatively bloodless story. If he and Pielmeier could provide more subtlety and less theme-punching and half-hearted Grand Guignol, “The Exorcist” would be quieter yet more effective.
Paul Hodgins – OC Register

The one thing you will come away with from Pielmeier’s play is a sense of what courage is all about. Leave Netflix for later, and see The Exorcist onstage, if only for its fine staging, performances and smart exercise of the mind.
Don Grigware – Grigware Blogspot

His Exorcist steers as far away from the film as possible, but there is only so much embellishment of smaller details in the book which can produce anything new or surprising content-wise. The play treads through the plot-points while fully absorbed in the theological struggles of the characters.
Vincent Smetana – Cinesnatch

How did director John Doyle and playwright John Pielmeier turn the visceral, horrific film masterpiece The Exorcist. now at the Geffen Playhouse, into a successful stage play? The answer is they didn’t.
Jonas Schwartz – TheaterMania

Instead, with a starkly lit set consisting of just two chairs, a table, wrought-iron walls, and a large suspended crucifix, 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. (Regan’s possession is suggested through writhing, contortion, and creepy voices delivered in unison by the male cast members.) 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.
Josh Rottenberg – Entertainment Weekly

The world premiere of The Exorcist at The Geffen Playhouse is good, solid theatre.
Cynthia Beckert – MadTheatrics

This new pocket version by playwright John Pielmeier (Agnes of God), while intelligently approached by all involved, mostly aspires to negative virtues: avoiding bombast, melodrama and unseemly antics; in short, anything that might have animated the creaky material into some semblance of theatrical power.
Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

John Doyle’s The Exorcist will not be everyone’s cup of tea, too frightening for some, too theologically philosophical for others, and simply too different from a favorite film for still others.
Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA

When all is said and done, the production might be in need of a witch doctor — or at the very least a play doctor — to drive out the elements of unrelenting tedium and restore a clearer sense of purpose, and above all, some entertainment value, to a production cursed with wrongheaded creative choices.
Les Spindle – EdgeLosAngeles

But it is tightly constructed overall with well paced performances that might make those who miss those heady days of early 1970s horror films shiver a little bit.
Brian – OutWestArts

At one point during the Geffen Playhouse’s staging of “The Exorcist,” I found myself thinking, “They should have done this as a Disney musical.” Could a chorus line of sequined devils high-kicking across the Geffen stage (“Lover-ly Day for an Exorcism”) be any sillier than what’s going on there now?
Trevor Thomas – EdgeLosAngeles

If you’re a die hard fan of the film go with an open mind. If you want to see some elegant and eerie design – go. If what you’re looking for is a well told, engaging play – maybe skip this one.
Anthony Byrnes – KCRW

No matter how cute little Regan is and how striking Brooke Shields still manages to be, I couldn’t have cared less if the devil took them both.
Kristina Bravo – Campus Circle

There is a palpable chill in the Geffen, but the source isn’t the script so much as the stunning production details and director John Doyle’s staging.
Rebecca Haithcoat – LA Weekly

It’s hard to fault the performances. One is left with a sense of disappointment at this play’s utter pointlessness.
Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

With all the kudos one can bestow on the staging, the material is pretentious and sanctimonious. The question that remains in the end is not philosophical; it is why bother redoing “The Exorcist” at all?
Karen Weinstein – Culture Vulture

I found The Exorcist an eerie and creepy play, a story about a 12-year old girl who becomes possessed, body and mind, by the devil and at times, is no longer herself.
Carol Kaufman Segal – Stagehappenings

There is still enough to appreciate in the production and I believe it is fixable with adjustments to Chamberlain’s character.
Robert Machray – Stagehappenings

Technical credits are brilliant and ineffective at once. Sound effects (Dan Moses Schreier) ranged from the suitably creepy background breathing to the overly loud and not-quite-right sound of urine flowing. The lighting (Jane Cox) actually seems to pulsate, subtly getting brighter and darker within a scene—an excellent effect until I noticed it and started watching for it, rather than paying attention to the actors. Teller (of “Penn and” fame) is credited as Creative Consultant, but there’s really only a single effect he seems to be responsible for—with his resume, and this title, I expected more. Unfortunately, the same could be said of the entire show.
Sharon Perlmutter – Talkin’ Broadway

With minimal props and set pieces, the play relies mainly on the actors and the creepily effective soundscape created by Dan Moses Schreier. Using a steady throbbing bass line when things are getting preternatural, the show has an ominous quality that befits the story. While it’s not exactly the fright fest of the film version, there are sudden scares and an underlying dread that fills the room. Special mention must be made of the choices in how to portray Regan’s altered voice as the possession takes hold and the clever staging that keeps it all believable.
Kevin P. Taft – Frontiers

Under the direction of John Doyle, The Exorcist is an intricately esoteric, tasteful, stylish thriller that uses simple dramatic techniques to constantly build suspense.
Mia Bonadonna – LAist

Said script is unfortunately almost laughable in its on-the-nose dialogue, shoehorned facts, and effortful relevancy. On top of that, for a play about characters in extreme crises, the storytelling is awkwardly anemic.
Dany Margolies – ArtsInLA

Presented by and at the Geffen Playhouse
10886 LeConte Ave., L.A.
July 11–Aug. 12, 2012; Tue.–Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.
Tickets: (310) 208-5454

Filed Under: FeaturedLemonMeterLow Rated


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