Around The Town

Why Like They Do in the Movies Doesn’t Live Up to Its Name.

By: Iris Wiener

March 23, 2024: Laurence Fishburne’s career is a formidable resume filled with as many powerful projects as there are playful programs. The Tony winner, Emmy winner, and Oscar nominee reveals new layers of his multi-faceted talents in Like They Do in the Movies, a one-man show for which he is the playwright and star. Though Fishburne’s stellar performance is a force with which to be reckoned, the play-now open at the new Perelman Performing Arts Center-is not entirely worth the journey. Here are five reasons why:


Why Like They Do in the Movies Doesn’t Live Up to Its Name.

By: Iris Wiener

March 23, 2024: Laurence Fishburne’s career is a formidable resume filled with as many powerful projects as there are playful programs. The Tony winner, Emmy winner, and Oscar nominee reveals new layers of his multi-faceted talents in Like They Do in the Movies, a one-man show for which he is the playwright and star. Though Fishburne’s stellar performance is a force with which to be reckoned, the play-now open at the new Perelman Performing Arts Center-is not entirely worth the journey. Here are five reasons why:

1.    The stories about his life in the movies…are missing? Though Fishburne touches on his lengthy career, which runs marathons across genres with credits such as What’s Love Got to Do with It, the Matrix franchiseand Broadway plays like Thurgood and Two Trains Running (not to mention family fare like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse), there is very little mention of it throughout this piece. Fishburne describes the show as “the stories and lies people have told me, and that I have told myself.” Unfortunately, few are about his own life. Perhaps Fishburne is waiting for his memoir to reveal the indelible retrospective for which his fans are jonesing.

2.    With an incredibly hefty 2 hour, 20 minute run time (which prompted the need for a script reader to occasionally interrupt to feed lines), one can’t help but feel confused by the misleading title. Mostly consisting of Fishburne metamorphosing himself into a bevy of colorful characters from his life, the long-winded show is a tough pill to swallow (Matrix pun intended).

3.    Fishburne’s performance is exceptionally transformative. Fishburne begins by stating “…this is a polite way of saying I’ve been talking bullshit my whole life.” What he reveals in Movies, however, is anything but “bullshit.”In his quite personal tale, he reveals how his mother is responsible for nurturing his love for performance, as she enrolled him in school for talented children at the age of 8. As he searched for meaning and familial connection throughout a life that saw trauma and fraught parental challenges, Fishburne’s periphery was a cavalcade of eccentric individuals. Ranging from a man who impersonates a police officer, to a friend who survived Hurricane Katrina and experienced the resulting devastation alongside his nurse wife, the actor is instantly enveloped by the impassioned people with whom he is so personally connected. Movies is a master class in acting.

4.    Neil Patel’s set design languishes. Images of New York accompanied by a multi-functioning table make up the entirety of a show that needs more substance to fill its length. Accompanied by Elaine J. McCarthy’s forgettable projections, Movies lacks the visual color one can only drink in through the liveliness of the stories being told.

5.    The final “character,’ whom Fishburne shares with an open heart (discovered with the direction of his Thurgood director Leonard Foglia) is that of his abusive mother. It’s unfortunate that his personal revelations are bookends to an amalgam of over-written stories, but in the end, once he begins revealing the dialogue he currently shares with the 90-plus year old, dementia-ridden matriarch Hattie, the emotional intention of the play almost makes its audience forgive its other missteps…but not quite.

Laurence Fishburne

Visit pacnyc.org/whats-on/like-they-do-in-the-movies for more information or to purchase tickets to Like They Do in the Movies, now playing through March 31st.