At times, “Playhouse” can feel overthought. It teems with potentially rich subjects without meaningfully exploring or integrating all of them ... Paradoxically, Bausch holds us most rapt when he directs our attention to the vexingly wobbly line between authenticity and art ... In such moments the author’s insight into his troubled characters feels transporting and true.
It’s a lot to coordinate, and Mr. Bausch’s prose lacks the texture to differentiate the many characters. The author is instead an expert of dialogue, and the novel mostly plays out in long, candid exchanges ... Mr. Bausch’s dialogue is neither poetic nor especially witty. It stands out by sounding entirely ordinary yet still carrying every interaction toward some conflict or personal disclosure ... Though this talky novel offers the pleasures of glancing behind the stage curtain, it feels most like eavesdropping on a series of heated, heartfelt conversations.
... psychologically lush and situationally entangled tale ... With Shakespearean moments of confusion, regret, and dissemblance, sharp-witted banter and all-out showdowns, Bausch’s enthralling, tempestuous, empathic drama illuminates with lightning strikes paradoxes of family, loyalty, and love.