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NYC
Straight Line Crazy
Straight Line Crazy
Musical

Straight Line Crazy

New York, NY
Ralph Fiennes is Robert Moses in this critically acclaimed production.
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About Straight Line Crazy

Ralph Fiennes stars as city planner Robert Moses in David Hare's Straight Line Crazy, a play about one of NYC's most controversial figures that premiered to acclaim in London earlier this year. Get Straight Line Crazy tickets on TodayTix.

What better place to see a story about the creation of New York as we know it today, than in New York today? After seeing Straight Line Crazy, you'll step outside the theatre and see Moses's many creations for yourself, making this production a homecoming of sorts. And while you're in the theatre, you'll discover history you might never have known about the city, and you'll see it all retold with a major celebrity at the center. A five-star review in The Guardian called Fiennes's London performance "enthralling" and "an acting triumph," and Hare's play "dramatically gripping and politically thoughtful."

The Straight Line Crazy play centers on two pivotal, parallel moments in Moses's 50-plus-year career: the late 1920s and the mid-1950s. The 1920s segment takes place when his power was on the rise and he successfully got highways built from New York City to Long Island. The 1950s segment, in contrast, focuses on one of his failed projects: paving a road directly through Washington Square Park. That project, and other ones that actually did result in poor neighborhoods and community spaces getting destroyed, caused public outcry against him.

In Hare's retelling of Moses's work, his reason for building the highways — to provide working-class people an escape from a congested, dirty city — eventually warped into his desire to make the city less "congested" and "dirty" by tearing down tenements occupied by minority groups, who couldn't afford to move to the shiny, upscale communities he built in their place. Today, people love or hate Moses, but Straight Line Crazy provides a complex portrait of a man grappling with with the negative side effects of a dreamlike vision for his city, and a resistance to change his vision with the times.

Fiennes is no stranger to playing cultural giants, real and fictional, from Charles Dickens to Lord Voldemort to Hades to Jesus Christ. So his portrayal of Robert Moses in Straight Line Crazy off Broadway isn't to be missed.

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Tell Me More

Robert Moses was active in the New York government for more than 50 years, at times holding up to 12 positions at once heading up various commissions and committees. Interestingly, he was never democratically elected to any of his offices, but his widespread involvement eventually gave him the power to oversee the development of New York as he wanted it: as a car-oriented city, with lots of highways and bridges. Most of the major infrastructure he built — the Cross Bronx Expressway and Long Island parkway system; the Triborough (now Robert F. Kennedy), Verrazano-Narrows, and Throgs Neck Bridges, to name a few — are still in use today, making Straight Line Crazy continually relevant.

But Moses wasn't always such a controversial figure — in his day, lots of people supported him because he got things done when the government didn't. It was The Power Broker, Robert Caro's Pulitzer-winning 1974 biography of Moses, that gave him his modern reputation as power-hungry and discriminatory toward poor and BIPOC communities.

Moses also isn't the only city planner included in the Straight Line Crazy play. One of the other characters is Jane Jacobs, whose career overlapped with Moses's. They opposed each other in many ways — namely, she didn't think clearing slums and building highways were the keys to a great city, and she fought against his planned road through Washington Square Park. Her book about city planning, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, is quoted repeatedly in Straight Line Crazy.

Straight Line Crazy in New York is co-directed by Nicholas Hynter, who helmed the London premiere, and Jamie Armitage, a Tony nominee for co-directing the musical Six.

What to Watch For

  • Straight Line Crazy isn't the only theatrical work to mention Moses: he's acknowledged briefly in the 2021 West Side Story film remake. In the opening scene, a protestor holds up a sign calling him out for demolishing a poor neighborhood to build Lincoln Center.
  • In addition, A Marvelous Order, a new musical about Moses and fellow New York city planner Jane Jacobs, is premiering at Penn State University at the same time as Straight Line Crazy in New York.
  • The show's title comes from a quote by Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger: "Engineers are straight-line crazy." She mostly supported Moses, but when she said this, she was denouncing his plan to build a road straight through Inwood Hill Park. In the Straight Line Crazy play, Jacobs says this quote instead.
  • Multiple real historical figures, like former New York governor Al Smith, are in Straight Line Crazy, but Hare also invented some. A character named Henry Vanderbilt, with whom Moses argues, is a composite of multiple real Vanderbilts. Hare told the New Yorker that director Nicholas Hynter "thought nobody would know."
  • Fiennes, Hare, and Hynter are reuniting for the second time. Fiennes previously performed as Hare in the playwright's one-man show Beat the Devil, which Hynter directed at London's Bridge Theatre. Straight Line Crazy premiered there, too.
Run time

2 hrs, 30 mins (with intermission)

Start date

October 18th, 2022

End date

December 18th, 2022

Genre

Musical

Venue

The Griffin Theater at The Shed

Age

Ages 12 and up

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