Illustration of Doctor Tedrow's Last Breath, written and directed by Matthew Earnest, in The New Yorker, August 2004 (artist: Michael Kupperman).

 

Profile of Matthew in American Theater magazine, June 2010.

 

Selected press clips:

Marat/Sade    Hilberry Repertory Theatre, Detroit, MI (2013)

"Marat/Sade is still avant garde even at age 50. It’s more pageant than play: cruel, unrelenting and hard to like. It is also, thanks to its director, guest artist Matthew Earnest, a compelling, visceral work, satisfying for its sheer theatricality. [He] has gotten everything right… Earnest's notable achievement is his success in the Brechtian alienation.”

John Quinn, Between the Lines Magazine

“This brilliantly performed production is directed and choreographed by Matthew Earnest, who returns to the Hilberry after directing last season’s innovative Much Ado About Nothing… This compelling production commands, deserves, and rewards the audience’s full attention… a powerful show that effortlessly pulls the viewer into its undertow of political anarchy and polarized political thought.”                                                                                                   Patty Nolan, The Detroit Examiner

 

poor little Lulu    Cleveland Public Theatre (2012)

“In this CPT world premiere, creator and director Matthew Earnest has fashioned an arresting work from two Wedekind pieces written over a hundred years ago: Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box.”                                      Christine Howey, The Plain Dealer

 

Much Ado About Nothing    Hilberry Repertory Theatre, Detroit, MI (2011)

“Shakespeare has rarely been performed with as much accessibility and downright glee as in the production of "Much Ado About Nothing" currently at the Hilberry Theatre. …[It] should delight Shakespeare snobs and newcomers alike.”

John Monaghan, Detroit Free Press

“Guest director Matthew Earnest has given us an innovative and very amusing production of the play, bringing to it the imagination that has earned him a number of prestigious awards…”                                         Robert Delaney, New Monitor

  

Himmelweg (Way to Heaven   REP/University of Delaware (2011)

“This careful production is simply professional repertory theater at its most excellent.”            Boden Day, The News Journal

  

Wanderlust: A History of Walking       Cleveland Public Theatre (2010): World premiere

“In these inventive hands, it's a nonstop, highly choreographed dance-theater piece…  Earnest and crew set a perpetual human machine in motion for 100 minutes.  It's an impressive and extraordinarily entertaining education.”

Tony Brown, The Plain Dealer 

“[Wanderlust is] infused with the manic imagination of director Earnest, who can turn the blandest scene into a visual amusement and often a revelation.  …The seven-person cast animates Lucy's bones so we can see her walk, cavorts stylishly in their loose-dirt sandbox of a set, and even gives us a bird's-eye view of Solnit as she writes at her desk.  Plus, Earnest's staging of a Las Vegas family vacation is hilarious, and the conclusion is startling and absolutely perfect.  … Earnest's thrilling theatrical chops should make you kick your heels in glee.”                                                  Christine Howey, Cleveland Scene

“…an exhilarating multi-faceted performance piece that explores the pleasures of perambulation through the millennia.  Wanderlust is performed by a peerless ensemble and beautifully directed by Earnest, who also choreographed the work.  …The 100-minute expressionistic theater piece is a total immersion experience that kept me transfixed throughout.  …Earnest’s direction is fluid and varied, like a symphony of movement in which poignant moments are followed by humorous ones.  …Wanderlust is a unique theatrical experience and a joy to watch. I shall never look at walking in quite the same way again. Nor will you.”                                                                                                                       Fran Heller, Cleveland Jewish News

 

Himmelweg (Way to Heaven)             Teatro Círculo, NYC (2009): New York premiere

*Critics’ Pick.  “A perversely theatrical chapter of the Holocaust is hauntingly re-enacted in Juan Mayorga’s play Way to Heaven…  …This spare, eloquent work… has been, not surprisingly, a hit in Europe and South America. Here, leanly directed by Matthew Earnest, it’s a powerful illustration of how theatrical artifice can be pressed into the service of atrocity.” (Read full New York Times review here.)

Andy Webster, The New York Times

*Reviewer’s Pick.  “Earnest builds the tension further by staging Way to Heaven in a rectangular space covered in dead leaves, each character's footsteps yielding innumerable crackles, filling our senses with reminders of how the Jews at Theresienstadt remained alive.”                                                                                                        Leonard Jacobs, Backstage

*Critics’ Pick.  “Way to Heaven (Himmelweg)… is an off-Broadway must-see,… [it] comes alive like few contemporary dramas in recent memory.  Through deft direction courtesy of Matthew Earnest the tale engrossingly unfolds backwards…  …riveting stage action.”                                                                                                                          Lauren Wissot, TheaterOnline.com

“Earnest’s fine direction cuts to the bone in a manner that will evoke a visceral response that will stick with you after you’ve left the theater.  …You’d be making a mistake to miss this one as it offers a fresh look at a powerful deception. The play is successful on many levels and is hauntingly gripping.”                                                                         Alan Zeitlin, NYBlueprint

“Way to Heaven is a smart, riveting, and immensely powerful and important play.  …extremely intelligent and surprisingly evenhanded.  …Many smart choices, from writer, director, and actor…  In one scene, Gottfried complains that the script is not working because "no one talks like that." The Commandant replies that this is true, and true of all plays, but what makes it seem real is the gestures you make.  Earnest takes this to heart: in his simple staging there is no extraneous gesture, no uncalculated movement—everything is done for a reason and the cast rises superbly to the challenge. Earnest rides brilliantly between realism and stylized performance, the past and the present, and you have the sensation the rug is constantly being pulled out from beneath you. This is a performance you have to work for. Mayorga, Earnest, and the diligent ensemble have a high estimation of the audience's intelligence, as all good theatre should.”                                Julie Congress, nytheatre.com

“The director of the American production, (it has been produced in London, Paris, Madrid and Buenos Aires), Earnest, masterfully entraps the audience, slowly drawing them into the inescapable web of compromise with the use of minimal sets and highly dramatic lighting, allowing the accomplished actors free reign to plumb the depths of each character.”

Richard McBee, The Jewish Press

  

The Seagull                 The Warehouse Theatre, Greenville, SC (2008)

“Director Matthew Earnest's production is a living proof of why we go to the theater.”             Ann Hicks, The Greenville News

 

Elizabeth: Almost by Chance a Woman                      Stillwater Theatre, Raleigh, NC (2007)

Raleigh News & Observer Top Ten Productions of 2007.  “…boldly inventive.  [Fo’s] wild and woolly texts need a firm hand and highly creative vision to succeed. …Director Matthew Earnest's grand overview keeps the production constantly interesting…  Earnest mixes Elizabethan formalities with today's pop culture and layers it all with a hilarious lunacy.  …dazzling theater."                                                                                                                           Roy C. Dicks, Raleigh News & Observer

“…Earnest orchestrates the action with a master’s touch.”                      Robert C.McDowell, Classical Voice of North Carolina

 

Peter Pan or The Boy who would not grow up          Porthouse Theatre, Cuyahoga Falls, OH (2007)

“Magic… refreshing… Imaginative staging lets audience experience story on another level… Earnest's production of Peter Pan… has helped me to see the classic as more than a fairy tale, for the first time.  …imaginatively original.  …Earnest has brilliantly reinvented the piece with his fresh conception...  …so many lovely surprises…  …It takes a brilliant mind to rediscover these basics and to lay them bare to modern-day audiences.  Earnest wowed Porthouse audiences last year with his superb rendition of Our Town. That appears to be the New York director's specialty: adapting classics in wonderfully refreshing ways.”                                                                                                              Kerry Clawson, Akron Beacon Journal

Cleveland Scene Best Director 2007.  “Nothing Lost On This Boy: Everyone knows that northeast Ohio is losing population…  We might be able to reverse that trend if more folks find their way to Porthouse Theatre -- particularly when Matthew Earnest is directing.  Last summer, Earnest mounted a sublimely simple and tone-perfect staging of Our Town. This summer, he's flying high with a non-musical version of Peter Pan...  …Earnest's production palette is a basic one… But it's the imagination that's fancy in this enthralling work, adding heaping dollops of fantasy just where they're needed...  The surprises begin almost immediately [and] from that point on, it's clear that everything is fair game for this director, but he never indulges any of his clever gambits to excess.  …the creativity of Earnest's vision trumps any small problems, especially when Peter and the three Darling kids fly over a city represented by little houses stuck on the end of poles carried by cast members.  While many plays never offer one real surprise, this excursion to Neverland has an eyebrow-raiser every couple of minutes. So let's hope Earnest makes Porthouse an annual stop…”                                                                           Christine Howey, Cleveland Scene

Cleveland Plain Dealer Top Ten Productions of 2007.  “Porthouse's Peter Pan soars  …Earnest has stripped down and deconstructed Peter Pan, fully exploring Barrie's psychosexual themes.  …Boys crawl out of trapdoors. Bluish Saran Wrap makes a pond. A rectangle of raw planks acts as Darling house, pirate ship, Lost Boy warren and island. A shadow puppet crocodile haunts Capt. Hook, who menaces with a garden tool.  And the flying is used judiciously, and you are welcome to see the wires and harnesses.  This is Earnest's low-tech vision for Peter Pan, requiring the audience to use our imaginations.  …Earnest digs below the superficialities of the Broadway musical and animated Disney film to unearth Barrie's contemplation of existential dread, fear of intimacy, the Oedipal complex and abandonment.  And yet, Earnest still makes the story whimsical and laugh-out-loudical.  …Earnest's intent: to make us imagine we are children again.”     Tony Brown, Cleveland Plain Dealer

 “…Coming to the rescue just before Pan might descend into new-age pornography, Earnest has figured out a way to keep the work relevant to modern-day audiences and yet remain true to the charming heart of its creator. He's turned the play inside out…  …The director realizes that, to deconstruct the play, you have to first understand its essence. What is so wisely emphasized here is the frailty of Barrie's characters: children torn from their parents, the longing for a permanent home, mortality represented by the jaws of a crocodile and pirates who also want to be loved.  …To turn the evening into a Neverland of his own imagining, Earnest skillfully employs international stagecraft, with Kabuki-like stagehands carrying the light that is Tinker Bell, giant mermaids on surfboards, a parlor maid who thinks she's the dog Nana, and the crocodile rendered as an oversized shadow puppet.  …The result is a rich Freudian stew rather than the '50s Peter Pan peanut butter we grew up on.”                                                                                                                        Keith A. Joseph, The FREE TIMES

 

Our Town                                Porthouse Theatre, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio (2006)

Here's a different take on Our Town     Earnest's production starts conventionally… But by the third act, the young director has made Wilder's play a clenched fist - with every drop of sentimentality squeezed out, leaving a taut, mournful study of the human condition…  Although there are individual actors who shine… it's Earnest's images that leave the most lasting impression.  Often it feels like there are two Our Towns vying for control of the stage. First, there's the gentle, nostalgic, slightly poky version we're used to... Then there's the other one, revealing the macabre skull beneath the skin.”                                                                                                             

Linda Eisenstein, Cleveland Plain Dealer

 Porthouse envisions Our Town as you've never seen it beforeSometimes you are fortunate enough to encounter a familiar old classic that has been given such a new and startling spin that you're compelled to think, "So that's what it's all about!"…  This is no sleepy reading of the play in which you probably had a role in high school.  Earnest delivers a clean and contemporary take on the denizens of Grover's Corners that is so amusing and insightful, you half-expect Thornton's specter to emerge from the surrounding woods and thunder: "Yes, dammit, that's what I meant!"…  This production truly shines.”

Christine Howey, Cleveland Scene

 

Cloud Tectonics                      Theatre Outlet, Allentown, PA (2006)

“…rarely fails to captivate. (This level of appreciation for language usually begins with the director and trickles down from there, and Earnest is commendable here for his reverent treatment in that realm.)  …Earnest’s set design is spare… his creation of a leaky roof onstage and rhythmic drip-drip of water provides a sonorous and technologically innovative twist.”                                                                                     

Steven Bost, The Hearthstone Town and Country 

 

Lipstick Traces (a secret history of the 20th century) Burning Coal, Raleigh, NC (2005)

Raleigh News & Observer: Top 10 production of 2005.  “Burning Coal's Lipstick Traces turned the Kennedy Theatre upside down with a glorious anarchic sneer…  Earnest's giddy and deceptively artful rendering of the intellectual spectacle was so much fun to watch that it didn't matter if you were being hoodwinked. (You weren't.)”     Orla Swift, Raleigh News & Observer

“Earnest has staged a giddy, vexing paradox…  Part history lesson, part dada vaudeville, part paean to punk, Lipstick Traces… is playful, intriguing and patchwork -- the curtains are, in fact, giant homemade quilts.  …Under Earnest, it is meticulously organized, and that's the appeal of Lipstick Traces. The nonsense is precise and purposeful. The cast performs with tightly choreographed control and droll wit…  If culture is s**t, then what is the charming, gregarious Lipstick Traces? What do you make of theater that grinningly suggests that art is pointless -- right after you've paid for it? What if you're glad you did?”                                                                                                      

 Adam Sobsey, Raleigh News & Observer

 “Director Adds Greatly to Bare-Bones Script…  Burning Coal has brought Earnest down from NYC to direct this play, and the work’s energy, pageantry, and a lot of the humor are his.  …This show is fast, furious, quick, clever, and outrageously funny.”                                                                                                    Alan R. Hall, Classical Voice of North Carolina

 

The Winter’s Tale                    The Warehouse Theatre, Greenville, SC (2003)

“…invigorating...  …Earnest does a fantastic job guiding the production through Shakespeare’s seasons.  …Earnest chooses to keep the production values simple, emphasizing the words over spectacle. The stage remains relatively bare, but you’d never know it from the imaginative use of a few key set pieces and the power of the performances.”           Neil Shurley, MetroBEAT

“Lavish and imaginative…  Brilliant…  So captivating it kept you riveted to the three-hour-long action…  A must-see.”                

Ann Hicks, The Greenville News

 

Coriolanus                              Kitchen Dog Theater, Dallas, TX (2002)

“…unique… The choice by Earnest to have bare-chested men portraying female characters makes for an intriguing melding of the masculine and feminine. It challenges the conventions of what gender, and ultimately of what theater, can be.”                                                                                                                        

Mekado Murphy, Out Magazine

“Triumphant… …Kitchen Dog Theater's innovative production of Shakespeare's Coriolanus… teaches us a lot about the macho underpinnings of this text in which pride and military prowess are the principal virtues… it also reminds us that an actor's two main instruments are his voice and his body.  …Earnest cheerfully mixes modern elements like bullhorns with ancient drums and Latin dirges.  You come away feeling that he has done justice to Shakespeare, but also that you have seen a very modern play.”                                                                                                                            Lawson Taitte, The Dallas Morning News

“Many of the themes that appear in the Bard’s greatest tragedies surface, and Earnest gives them all stirring immediacy with venturesome staging…  Earnest’s choices for anachronistic props are intriguing, and add to a production that’s audaciously thrilling.”                                                                                                                    Mark Lowry, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

 

The Two Gentlemen of Verona           Shakespeare Festival of Dallas (2002)

“Since it isn't performed as much as the other comedies, Two Gentlemen prompts more analysis than the ones we pass like landmarks on a familiar road. Ditto for Kitchen Dog Theater's recent Coriolanus, which was also directed by Earnest. It's no coincidence; he's got the gift.”                                                                                            Tom Sime, The Dallas Morning News

 

 deep ellum ensemble selected clips (1995-2007)

“Part elegy part requiem and part satirical indictment, Doctor Tedrow’s Last Breath haunts from the moment one walks into the theater.  …Doctor Tedrow snaps vividly and theatrically into focus. …a terrific theatrical experience. Earnest’s use of the five member chorus who seem to consume Tedrow from the grave (as well as the writer/director’s imaginative stagecraft and dramaturgy) haunt both during the performance and after. Perhaps most interesting is that Earnest has managed to theatricalize something so standard in contemporary culture – the disaster movie.”          Andy Propst, AmericanTheater Web

Doctor Tedrow’s Last Breath appears destined for greatness…  An extraordinary feast of design…  The music is gorgeous and moving…  Earnest’s lyrics are as powerful and complex as the rest of his text.”                 Tom Sime, The Dallas Morning News 

Doctor Tedrow’s Last Breath will take your breath away.  The ensemble is top-notch, but the winner here is clearly Earnest’s effortless manner of making a theatrical show that evokes emotion and provokes thought.”

   Mark Lowry, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“This group flies with a unique, vibrant blend of theatrical elements.”                                       S. Quenot, Berliner Morgenpost

“One of New York’s great companies.”                                                                              Robert Simonson, Time Out New York

”This is theatre fare par excellence: when and where else would we see work this daring and adventurous?”

   Karen Fricker, The Dublin Sunday Tribune

“Under Earnest’s inspired guidance, the ensemble made a triumphant return to its hometown.  [The Jilting of Granny Weatherall] showcases deep ellum ensemble’s raw, ritualistic design sense but is also marvelously polished and sophisticated; somehow, though every stitch is shown, the overall effect is seamless.  Visually, sonically and psychologically riveting, Granny makes for an evening of astounding grace and power.”                           Tom Sime, The Dallas Morning News