Democracy, which literally means “the rule of the people,” is perhaps the most celebrated Greek innovation.  It’s what we hang our hat on in this country and boast with great pride.  It’s also the focus of this year’s Onassis Festival.

“Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming” is a festival of arts and ideas that celebrates, reevaluates, and considers anew the concept of democracy in the one space that has, since Greek antiquity, allowed citizens to engage peacefully and constructively with serious and often divisive issues, be they social, political, religious, or ideological: a public theater.

The topic helps us reflect as we work through our issues in our own divided democracy.  While you likely studied the stories of Socrates and understand his legacy, you might not have drawn the parallels to what we are experiencing today. The play, named after the man had wit and pain as it captures the man who never stopped pursuing the truth (and virtue) throughout his entire life.  The show at times exhausted us as we watched the main character relentlessly try to get answers on everything in front of him. We are witnessed the people on the other end as they continuously answered his questions to their own frustrations. 

Socrates depicted the complicated man who changed how the world thought. He saw things differently and while he did not call himself a teacher, what he did in mid-400 BC is something we can all learn from in 2019.  

This powerful new play by actor, director, and writer Tim Blake Nelson is an intellectual thrill ride from the philosopher’s growing prominence in democratic Athens through the military and social upheavals that led to one of the most infamous executions in Western history. Tony Award winner Doug Hughes directs Socrates, a timely and timeless new work that serves as a passionate tribute to the man who continues to inspire us to question authority and defend freedom of belief.

We walked in knowing the stories about the man. We walked away understanding ‘how to think’.  Michael Stuhlbarg brilliantly tired us all to help us understand what was necessary to challenge the democracy and keep everyone honest.  He does not just accept things for what they are but tries to understand why people do what they do. Although he says that he learned nothing, we learned a ton in just under 3 hours. About ourselves and about our society. 

The play is explored through Plato’s eye, who passes his knowledge on to A Boy. In this theater, you are That Boy. 

Socrates will run through Sunday, May 19 at the Public Theater. Full price tickets, starting at $75, can be accessed by calling (212) 967-7555, visiting, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street.