Jesse Pennington

Actor and writer

Jesse Pennington was most recently seen as Karl Lindner in the first ever Off Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun directed by Robert O’Hara at the Public Theater. Before that, he was seen as Astrov in Uncle Vanya (Drama Desk in 2018 for Best Play Revival) directed by Richard Nelson Off Broadway at the Hunter Theater Project.He won an Obie Award and received a Lucille Lortel nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his work in the New York premiere of Robert O’Hara’s Bootycandy, at Playwrights Horizons. He is also known for having originated the role of Phil in Richard Nelson’s Franny’s Way at Playwrights Horizons. Additionally he has worked with the playwrights Keith Bunin, Jordan Harrison, Chloe Moss, as well as, the directors Anne Kauffman, Darko Tresnjak, Carolyn Cantor, and Lisa Peterson. He has acted opposite Elizabeth Moss, Jessica Chastain, Corin Redgrave, Tonya Pinkins, David Strathairn, Martha Plimpton, Jay O'Sanders and Maryann Plunkett.His other Off Broadway credits include The Winter’s Tale (NYSF/Public Theater), The False Servant (CSC), A Place at the Table (MCC), The General From America ( TFANA), The Mountains Look Different (Mint), Rodney’s Wife (Playwrights Horizons). He has worked throughout the United States at regional theaters including the Guthrie Theater, Huntington Theater, A.C.T., the Alley Theater, Denver Theater Center, the Geffen Playhouse, Williamstown Theater Festival, New York Stage and Film, People’s Light and Theater Company, and the Humana Festival. He also played Tim Andrews in the international tour of Richard Nelson’s critically acclaimed The Apple Family Plays (Berlin's Schaubuhne Theater, Brighton Theater Festival, Vienna Theater Festival). His film work includes American Gun, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, Favorite Son, and Uncle Vanya for PBS. He is a classically trained singer and studied acting at NYU’s Graduate Acting School.


For Raisin in the Sun at The Public Theater
"I grew up and lived amongst the Polish, Irish and Italian working class of Chicago. Jesse Pennington is the most accurate depiction of who those people are/were. He was not the smooth businessman as previously portrayed. What we as Black people know is that the more white people smile at us, the deeper the cut when they stab us in the back. Jesse took the mask off."
- Tonya Pinkins, Medium
For Uncle Vanya at Hunter Theater Project and The Old Globe
"Each of the cast provides a seemingly effortless study in passive aggression. The performances are so self-effacing, you won’t at first realize how thorough and completely felt they are...
These people — who are visited by a dashing, but increasingly weary country doctor, Mikhail Astrov (a quietly sexy and damningly perceptive Jesse Pennington) — tend to speak of themselves as helpless, passive beings, pushed into place by circumstance and more extreme personalities. Don’t believe them.I’ve attended at least a dozen versions of “Uncle Vanya: Scenes From Country Life in Four Acts” (to use its full, deceptively straightforward title), performed by the some of the starriest casts ever assembled in the name of Chekhov. But none felt as immediately personal or as emotionally coherent as this Hunter Theater Project production. Directed by Mr. Nelson, this is as naked and fully human an “Uncle Vanya” as we’re likely to see."
- Ben Brantley, The New York Times
For The Apple Family Plays at Brighton Theatre Festival
"Faultlessly directed by Nelson himself, the plays present the rare spectacle of a tight-knit American ensemble at work. Maryann Plunkett, Mariann Mayberry and Sally Murphy as the three sisters, Jay O Sanders as the brother, Jon DeVries as the amnesiac uncle and Jesse Pennington as the lover of the writer-sister give an exemplary display of naturalistic acting. Seated on three sides of the action, we seem to be not so much watching a play as eavesdropping on life itself."
- Michael Billington, The Guardian
For Bootycandy at Playwrights Horizons
"A white man played by the marvelous actor Jesse Pennington (so memorable in Franny’s Way, also at Playwrights Horizons) and the grown up Sutter have a long graphic scene in a gay bar talking about how they want to experiment with each other in bed. Mr. Pennington, the only white actor in the cast, is surprisingly the best thing in the production, playing a variety of victims and buffoons with totally different hair styles—a prissy moderator of an awkward Playwrights Horizons writers conference, for instance, in which the four black actors are working on the various vignettes we watch throughout the evening in unfinished scenes.
Mr. Pennington, a fearless artist if ever I’ve seen one..."
- Rex Reed, The New York Observer
"Four other terrific actors — Jessica Frances Dukes, Benja Kay Thomas, Lance Coadie Williams and Jesse Pennington — each play several roles, many outrageously comic."
- Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
For Franny's Way at Playwrights Horizons
"The cast members embody their characters' abiding discomfort and prickliness with admirable grace. And the high-strung but contained performances of Ms. Woods and Mr. Pennington remind you that tragedy generally leaves people less ennobled than simply stunned and confused."
- Ben Brantley, The New York Times
For The Winter's Tale at New York Shakespeare Festival
"Florizel, the son of Polixenes, who is among Shakespeare's most eloquently ardent lovers and is played with fine conviction by Jesse Pennington."
- Bruce Weber, The New York Times
For Maple & Vine at the Humana Festival
"Anne Kauffman’s crisp production features persuasive performances from all the actors, including Paul Niebanck and Jeanine Serralles as the picture-perfect 1950s couple whose lives are founded on — perhaps enriched by? — repression and secrets, and Jesse Pennington as this quasi-Eden’s equivalent of a subversive snake."
- Charles Isherwood, The New York Times