The reviews are in for ‘Tales from Hollywood’ at the Guthrie

Tales from Hollywood marks two beginnings; it is the first production in the Guthrie Theater's 50th Anniversary season, and it launches the "Hampton Celebration," an exploration of work by the British playwright Christopher Hampton. Known best for his adaptation of novels for stage and screen, the celebration will feature two more plays (Appomattox and Embers) as well as movie screenings, lectures and workshops.


Lee Sellars (Ödön von Horváth) in the Guthrie Theater's production of Tales from Hollywood, by Christopher Hampton

Photo by Michael Brosilow

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Tales of Hollywood concerns itself with intellectuals and artists such as Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann who fled Nazi Germany for Hollywood in the 1940s. Hampton takes liberties with the facts - the show is narrated by Ödön von Horváth, an Eastern European playwright who never made it to the U.S.

While Tales of Hollywood is filled with meaty fare, critics give this production mixed reviews.


Lee Sellars (Ödön von Horváth) and Julia Coffey (Helen Schwartz) in the Guthrie Theater's production of Tales from Hollywood, by Christopher Hampton

Photo by Michael Brosilow

From Ellen Burkhardt at Minnesota Monthly:

Glitz and glam Tales from Hollywood is not. Thought provoking and layered it is. Go with an open mind, maybe do a little bit of homework beforehand, and give it time to sink in before you form an opinion. Love it or hate it, you'll leave with strong feelings toward it, and that, my friends, is the beauty of theater.

From Dominic P. Papatola at the Pioneer Press:

Directing a play at the Guthrie means having access to abundant artistic resources, but Ethan McSweeny fails to shoulder the great responsibility that comes with this great power. Though he navigates his cast very competently through the script, his undisciplined fascination with the bells and whistles of this production shows a shiny-object distraction...

...the techniques needlessly gild the lily. "Tales from Hollywood" is a sharply observed story whose words deserve to be supported, not undercut, by staging techniques.


Lee Sellars as Ödön von Horváth and Keir Dullea as Heinrich Mann

Photo by Michael Brosilow

From Mira Reinberg at

Perhaps this production is best in its orchestration of the subdued subtleties of the script: of the untold calamities that displaced the writers from their homes, the belittlement they endured from publishers and producers, and the portending practices of Congress toward their suspect Communist engagement. On rare occasions does the pain unravel forcefully, but it is throbbing all along the production.

From Janet Preus at

Yes, it is a smart script with intriguing subtexts. Given the denouement, however, one has to puzzle over the "comedy" label, in spite of the acidic humor and many laughs. It makes for an interesting night of theater, but its branding seems slightly askew.


Lee Sellars as Ödön von Horváth, Keir Dullea as Heinrich Mann and Allison Daugherty as Nelly Mann in Tales from Hollywood, by Christopher Hampton

Photo by Michael Brosilow

From Rohan Preston at the Star Tribune:

Hampton updated some of the language in "Tales." He might have cut the N-word, which jumps from the narrator's mouth like a noxious effluence. It momentarily ejected me from an often absorbing theatrical experience.

Tales from Hollywood runs through October 27 at the Guthrie Theater. Have you seen it? What's your review?