Recommended by Nick Malakhow

  • Break
    12 May. 2022
    A multi-faceted and fascinating exploration of relationships (platonic and romantic and sexual), what brings people together, keeps them together, and tears them apart. Along with this dissection of several very different relationships comes some fun satire on reality tv and the commodification of others' misery. The representation of a variety of relationships--friendships, polyamorous relationships, interracial relationships--makes for a nuanced and intersectionally compelling narrative. I'm eager to follow the trajectory of this play --it's a simultaneously entertaining and thought-provoking piece!
  • The Good Brother
    5 May. 2022
    The biggest strength of this piece is the way Nieboer renders the irregular, complex rhythms of grief and family. He also balances naturalistic and nuanced reactions to Eoghan's death with some major theatrical overtures that underscore the unexpected ways grief haunts and infects. Moments of comedy also feel true to the story. The sizable ensemble is full of such well-defined and eclectic characters--each would be an actor's delight to portray. I also really enjoyed just how much this felt like a major journey for each individual without resorting to melodramatics. The end is poignant, heartbreaking, and so very subtle.
  • Acetone Wishes and Plexiglass Dreams
    5 May. 2022
    Beautiful and immensely theatrical play that looks at family baggage, inherited trauma, grief, recovery, and the complex meaning of "home." I just loved how all of the characters were rendered with depth and humanity and nuance, and these scenes containing small seismic character shifts coincided with some bold theatrical strokes in terms of visual design and double/triple/quadruple casting of the adults. There is a vivid sense of place provided even with very few actor bodies onstage. The tensions and growth between Celina and Inky (and within themselves) were majorly impactful while subtly-drawn. I'd love to see it produced!
  • stains
    3 May. 2022
    A funny, human coming-of-age story that explores universal feelings of belonging, growing up, and family refracted through an intersectional lens that thoroughly explores its central character's multi-faceted identity. Christine is a sympathetic and realistically rendered teen, and I found it especially impressive how Cho kept all characters sympathetic while maintaining the simmering adolescent/adult tension. The family dynamics were hilariously rendered; the inclusion of Melissa Joan Hart (and some quality early aughties TV references) brought me back to childhood and my own experience of both looking up to and feeling like an outsider because of media depictions of teens.
  • Greater Illinois
    2 May. 2022
    A compelling piece of speculative fiction that thoroughly and sharply explores the socio-cultural and political crossroads we are at now and illuminates the dangers of complacent liberal points of view that take for granted as set in stone rights that are legitimately in flux as we speak. I loved how the dual timelines dovetailed with one another throughout the first act before colliding right before intermission. The characters' varying and complex identities allowed for clear and interesting conversations about the distinct prejudices surrounding race, gender, sexuality, and intersections thereof. I'd love to see this staged!
  • Rx Machina
    30 Apr. 2022
    A powerful, poignant play that explores huge, relevant, and troubling social issues by focusing in on a well-chosen cross section of women. I also loved how the well-written, character-driven, naturalistic scenes that vibrated with humanity, humor, and pathos were punctuated by these compelling theatrical movement moments. All of the characters were well-developed, but I especially loved seeing Nina's journey and development as it (and her relationship with Maren) served also as a potent extended metaphor for the ways ethics, compromise, capitalism, and personal gain intersect with regards to the opioid crisis.
  • Following
    28 Apr. 2022
    This genre-bending piece negotiates waters that include thriller, sharp social satire, horror, and physical comedy. The use of comedy and laughter to explore allyship--both performative and true, technology, interracial relationships, and more allows Locke to pack significant social commentary into the piece without didacticism. From the hilarious Julia who seems to just wander around brandishing her whiteness without noticing to the snarky and multi-faceted Tey to the aching Rashaad, I also appreciated how the supporting characters were nuanced and well-developed. I look forward to tracking this piece's development journey and would love to see it live!
  • Bad Boyfriend
    28 Apr. 2022
    A sharp, insightful, and supremely funny monologue that covers a lot within its compact form. Locke explores intersections of race, gay male culture, intimacy, dating, sex, self image, and more through relaying distinct stories about various relationships and encounters--some sad, some sweet, some ill-fated, some a combo of all three. The play has the feeling of friend relaying human, complex stories, while still following a structure and compelling arc. The examination of being Black and queer in relation to whiteness and world that privileges whiteness is thorough, vulnerable, and quite funny. I'd so love to see this performed!
  • Mediocre Heterosexual Sex
    27 Apr. 2022
    This is an incredibly sharp and hilarious piece that manages to be entertaining while having transformative conversations about and explorations of power, intimacy, sex, relationships, agency, consent, and more. Each character is a vividly-rendered individual with a distinct voice and potent wants and needs and insecurities that feed off of and bristle against one another. Erin's a compelling nucleus for the play who is human and easy to sympathize with; at the same time, she is not let off the hook and is at the center of complex interpersonal dynamics with other imperfect, likable, and, above all, human people.
  • The Lost Ballad of Our Mechanical Ancestor (and the Terror the Old Gods Wrought Upon the First of Us Before the Great Liberation)
    27 Apr. 2022
    This is so funny, original, and highly theatrical. The ways Madison explores communication and language theatrically between machines, machines and humans, and humans would make for dynamic and fresh moments onstage. The allegorical connection to Prometheus and sci fi genre tropes raise the stakes in this piece to heightened dimensions. At the same time all of the characters, human and AI, are rendered with complexity and nuance so that, like all great sci fi, this feels like a VERY human and very contemporary exploration of class, personhood, capitalism, and socialism. Hilarious, thought-provoking, and worthy of many productions!

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