Neil Hollands recently posted an excellent article featuring a baker’s dozen of important plays to get library patrons to the dramatic literature shelf. All are classics. He chose very impressive works of modern theatre. In comparison to Greek, Elizabethan, and Victorian plays, Hollands’ selections are fresh and cutting edge. But that edge gets even sharper! Hundreds of plays are being published every year with incredibly potent millennial and young-adult appeal. While young readers should not see their 25th birthday without having read the works on Hollands’ list, here are 13 more plays from hot, 21st century dramatists, listed in corresponding order with Neil’s selections. These titles, in combination with his’ picks, are sure to have patrons of all ages flocking to the 800’s section.
Babylon Heights, by Irvine Welsh & Dean Cavanagh
Much like Amadeus, Babylon Heights explores the creation of an epic work of art: The Wizard of Oz. Welsh tells the plight of the drawfs hired to play munchkins in the film. The characters live in a hotel near the set, and once shooting is over for the day, all hell breaks loose. Not drugs, deception, nor orgies are out of the question.
Mad Forest, by Caryl Churchill
Large family dynamics like those found in Tracy Letts’ magnum opus (August: Osage County) are explored in this, one of Churchill’s lesser known plays. Told before, during, and after the Romanian Revolution of 1989, Mad Forest is part romance, part familial case study, and part docu-drama.
Tigers be Still, by Kim Rosenstock
Every character in this play is an untrustworthy narrator. Reading it is a puzzle, a joy. Every character is grappling with his or her own set of anxieties and depressions, making it difficult to determine the truths about this family of women. Complex and warm.
The Nether, by Jennifer Haley
The Nether explores the dangers of virtual reality. In a futuristic, interactive version of the internet, users can enter a domain where taboo behaviors are freely explored. Pedophilia and violence can be engaged in an extremely lifelike manner without actually hurting a real human being. But who does this phenomenon really hurt? The future of society. Fans of Westworld, take note!
Aliens, by Annie Baker
This is Baker uninhibited. Is there anything more horrific than being a tortured young heathen forced to work at Starbucks? How are you supposed to feel when a distant acquaintance commits suicide? Baker expertly navigates the trenches of the 21st century psyche.
Rapture, Blister, Burn, by Gina Gionfriddo
The choices we make early in our lives determine the brand of dissatisfaction we will experience later in life. Two friends from grad school find themselves equally unhappy but for very different reasons. Like The History Boys, Rapture, Blister, Burn is a coming-of-age tale, but Gionfriddo reminds audiences that age can come at any point in life. A fiery, feminist couple of hours.
Roadkill Confidential, by Sheila Callaghan
A man whose wife became human roadkill. A woman who uses literal roadkill to create sensational works of art. What do they have in common? More than you would think.
After the Revolution, by Amy Herzog
This play follows a recent college graduate as she enters the workforce, struggling to carry her family’s Marxist torch. Everything is political when your father and grandfather have published some of the most famous Marxist writings of modern time. . . especially who you bring to dinner. Published with 4000 Miles, another incredible millennial-centric Herzog tale.
Water by the Spoonful, by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Delves into the realms of cyber support groups, adoption, and heroin addiction. Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Part two of Hudes’ Eliot trilogy.
Between Riverside and Crazy, by Stephen Adly Gurgis
Tells the story of a retired NYPD cop who was shot while off-duty by a white NYPD cop. In doing so, he paints a nuanced, fair picture of racism and violence in law enforcement today.
Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar
Akhtar’s play asks the same questions of race and the upper class as Six Degrees of Separation, adding the discussion of an important post-9/11 concept: Islamophobia. Is “patron of the arts” synonymous with “progressive?” Can “liberal” and “racist” be pinned on the same lapel? Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The Red Letter Plays, by Suzan-Lori Parks
Lovers of literary allusion will relish these tellings of The Scarlet Letter. In one, a mother to five illegitimate children faces the society scrutiny of single parenthood. In the other, an abortionist longs to meet with her incarcerated son; both mother and child locked in a prison of social stigma.
Detroit, by Lisa D’Amor
Two couples lament and bicker about the suburban plight, and a backyard is literally set on fire. D’Amor’s play is hot. She gleaned Albee’s iconic inter-character setup (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf) and cooked the whole thing with gas.