Cover art compliments of The Public Theater

What Did You Expect?

Richard Nelson
Book Item Icon $15.95


WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? is Part Two in the The Gabriels trilogy:
Part One: HUNGRY

All three titles may be purchased as a bundle at 20% off the regular price: THE GABRIELS: ELECTION YEAR IN THE LIFE OF ONE FAMILY


THE GABRIELS trilogy chronicles a year in the life of a neighboring family who reunite in real time at three different points across 2016 to celebrate, remember, and wait for the world to change. History and politics, art and culture, love and hate are all on the table as the Gabriels gather in the kitchen of the house they grew up in — ultimately revealing the deep, human impact of one of the most extraordinary years in American history. Part Two, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?: Financial problems are escalating for the Gabriels, causing a cascade of complications, as the election looms before them.

Production Info

Cast: 6 total (5 female, 1 male)
Full Length Drama (about 105 minutes)
Single Set
Contemporary Costumes
Category: Tags: ,

Press Quotes

“A mirror of our frightened, fallible selves at this very fraught moment in American history … WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? is the second work in the second cycle of plays by Mr Nelson that have quietly emerged as a sui generis triumph of civic theater … [They] inhabit the here and now with an unobtrusive thoroughness I’ve never encountered elsewhere in the theater.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“By exploring the underwater part of the iceberg whose visible tip is politics, [Nelson] is challenging the idea of what political theater can be.” —Jesse Green, New York Magazine

“As close to a perfect illusion as theatre can get …” —Max McGuinness, Financial Times

“The quiet brilliance of Nelson’s extraordinary project …” —Linda Winer, Newsday

“The effect is akin to eavesdropping on a private family conversation.” —Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

“… with a wordsmith’s scalpel, [Nelson] performs delicate surgery on the American psyche to probe what ails it. In exquisite character portrayals by Nelson’s six actors, we learn that the political season coincides with the ageless experience of loss — the death of Thomas, Hannah’s subtle casualisation from caterer to maid, Karin’s envy of a decent, dogged family, and the perennial mysteries of old age into which Patricia is disappearing. The crafted naturalism of each family member arriving to clutter the kitchen with books and ingredients, stir the (actually) cooking pot and set the table eases the audience into a realm of domestic intimacy. Against all theatrical rules, there’s almost no dramatic action, but as the gentle conversations unfold around the table, you feel the urge to lean in and listen intently. And you are rewarded.” —Victoria Laurie, The Australian

“Unique chance to be a fly on the Gabriels’ kitchen wall is not to be missed … What is perhaps surprising about these plays at first sight is how little the family discuss politics as such. For the Gabriels, it’s the little rituals of family life that matter, exemplified by how they set the kitchen at the start of each play. It is the issues that matter to ordinary people that Nelson wants to explore. How do we pay for health care? With rich ‘out-of-towners’ buying up our properties, why can’t we afford to live in our own communities any more? When did the banks stop paying interest to savers? The communal activity of cooking a meal is the enabler, a special ‘family’ time at which such matters can naturally come to the fore at an unforced pace. It’s all real — you can smell the onions frying — and put across with a particularly magical naturalism inhabiting every line, gesture and chopped pimento … Much of the writing is heart-warmingly gentle and brilliantly observed. There’s plenty of humour … The Gabriels will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.” —Clive Paget, Limelight Magazine (Australia)

About the Author


  • Richard Nelson

    Richard Nelson's plays include the four-play series, THE APPLE FAMILY (THAT HOPEY CHANGEY THING, SWEET AND SAD, SORRY, REGULAR SINGING (Nominated for Outstanding Play in Drama Desk Awards 2014; Public Theater, 2010 – 2013), NIKOLAI AND THE OTHERS (Lincoln Center Theater, 2013), FAREWELL TO THE THEATRE (Hampstead Theatre, 2012), HOW SHAKESPEARE WON THE WEST, (Huntington Theater, 2008), CONVERSATIONS AT TUSCULUM (Public Theater, 2008), FRANK'S HOME (Goodman Chicago, Playwrights Horizons, 2007), RODNEY'S WIFE (Playwrights Horizons, 2004), WHERE I COME FROM (National Theatre Connections), MADAME MELVILLE (which ran in the West End starring Macaulay Culkin and Irene Jacob and opened in May 2001 Off-Broadway); GOODNIGHT CHILDREN EVERYWHERE (winner of Olivier Award for Best New Play, 2000), KENNETH'S FIRST PLAY (with Colin Chambers, RSC), THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA (at the RSC and the Lucille Lortel Theatre, New York), NEW ENGLAND (RSC and Manhattan Theater Club), MISHA'S PARTY (with Alexander Gelman, RSC and Williamstown Theater Festival), TWO SHAKESPEAREAN ACTORS (Tony nomination for Best Play, RSC and Broadway), COLUMBUS AND THE DISCOVERY OF JAPAN (RSC Barbican), SOME AMERICANS ABROAD (Olivier nomination, Best Comedy; RSC, Lincoln Center and Broadway), LEFT, BETWEEN EAST AND WEST (Hampstead), PRINCIPIA SCRIPTORAE (winner of Time Out Award, RSC and Manhattan Theater Club), THE RETURN OF PINOCCHIO, AN AMERICAN COMEDY, BAL, CONJURING AN EVENT, RIP VAN WINKLE, JUNGLE COUP, THE KILLING OF YABLONSKI, THE VIENNA NOTES (Obie Award). His musicals include JAMES JOYCE'S THE DEAD (starring Christopher Walken and Blair Brown; Playwrights Horizons, Belasco Theatre, Broadway, Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, Kennedy Center, Washington; for which he received a Tony Award in 2000 for Best Musical Book), CHESS (the book for the Broadway musical), PARADISE FOUND (dir: Harold Prince and Susan Strohman), MY LIFE WITH ALBERTINE (with Ricky Ian Gordon; Playwrights Horizons), UNFINISHED PIECE FOR A PLAYER PIANO (with Peter Golub). His translations and adaptations include TYNAN starring Corin Redgrave (with Colin Chambers, RSC and West End), LOLITA with Brian Cox (National), Molnar's THE GUARDSMAN (Kennedy Center), Carriere's THE CONTROVERSY (Public Theater), Fo's ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST (Broadway), Strindberg's THE FATHER with Frank Langella (Broadway) and MISS JULIE (Yale Rep), Beaumarchais' THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (the Guthrie and Broadway); Molière's DON JUAN, Ibsen's WILD DUCK and ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE, Pirandello's ENRICO IV, Goldoni's IL CAMPIELLO, Erdmann's THE SUICIDE. With the esteemed translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, he was co-translated Chekhov's THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Gogol's THE INSPECTOR, Turgenev's A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY and Bulgakov's DON QUIXOTE. Films: Hyde Park on Hudson, staring Bill Murray and Laura Linney (Dir: Roger Michell), Ethan Frome, starring Liam Neeson (Dir: John Madden); Sensibility and Sense, staring Elaine Stritch and Jean Simmons (Dir: David Jones). Television: The End of a Sentence with Edward Herrmann (Dir: David Jones). Radio Plays include: HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, LANGUAGES SPOKEN HERE (Giles Cooper Award), EATING WORDS (Giles Cooper Award), ADVICE TO EASTERN EUROPE, AN AMERICAN WIFE (all BBC).

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 1/19/2017
Pages 102
ISBN 9780881456905

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:

Originally developed and produced by
The Public Theater
Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Patrick Willingham, Executive Director

The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
What Did You Expect? is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC