Quiara Alegria Hudes moved away from Philadelphia a long time ago, but most of her plays are still rooted in the grim realities of life in North Philly. Poverty. War. Drugs.
"Water by the Spoonful" is the second in a trilogy of plays, the lyrical Elliot cycle, that spin around the haunted Ortiz family. The first, "Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue," was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and the last play in the trilogy is titled "The Happiest Song Plays Last."
All of the plays are steeped in Hudes' own life and family so they resonate with a piercing intimacy. Of the cycle, she says, "The first is a little gem of voice. The second is an unwieldy grasp at redemption, at surrender. The third is my heart."
"Water by the Spoonful" is a drama about Iraq veterans, addiction and the need for human connection. Leslie Martinson directs the regional premiere of this searing drama playing through Sept. 14 at TheatreWorks. See the review on Page 72.
"The tragedy is borne out of the yearning and love these characters feel," says the playwright, who also wrote the book for the ebullient Tony-winning musical "In the Heights," "none of them is truly hopeless yet they lack the tools to get through the day unscathed."
Smart, funny and startling in its poignancy, this play explores the way the Internet can bind communities together across time and space even in a world as disconnected and fragmented as this one. It cements Hudes' status as one of one of the most important new voices in the American theater today. In her honor, here are 10 other hot new playwrights that should be on your radar.
Baker, who won this year's Pulitzer Prize for drama for "The Flick," (total disclosure: this critic was part of that Pulitzer jury), has a stunning command of the form, refreshingly blending naturalism and a heightened sense of the eccentricities of language (the memorable ladder monologue, for instance) in her "Vermont" plays. A genius at subtext and the nuances of silence, she is known for the celebrated "Mirror Circle Transformation" at Marin Theatre Company, "Body Awareness" at the Aurora and the sublime "The Aliens" at the San Francisco Playhouse.
Strange, uncompromising and unforgettable are words that spring to mind when considering the plays of Eno. His acidly funny and deeply existential plays include the Pulitzer-nominated "Thom Pain (based on nothing)" and "Lady Grey (in ever lower light)" at San Francisco's Cutting Ball Theater and the world premiere of "Tragedy: a tragedy" at Berkeley Rep in 2008. He's also known for "Gnit," his whimsical adaptation of Ibsen's "Peer Gynt."
The playwright's savagely funny voice is also keenly insightful about women, feminism and power. In the rollicking farce, "Becky Shaw," (presented by SF Playhouse) and in the Chekhovian comedy "Rapture, Blister, Burn" (upcoming at Aurora Theatre Company) the Pulitzer-nominated Gionfriddo explores the notion that "women take pride in avoiding their mothers' disappointments only to disappoint themselves in new ways that will make the generation below them cringe." The edgy comedy "Rapture, Blister, Burn" runs Aug. 29-Sept. 28 at the Aurora and is directed by Desdemona Chiang.
A lack of artifice lies beneath the emotional power of Herzog's quietly resonant plays. She has a knack for understated characters facing everyday hurdles with equal parts pluck and self-destructiveness. In the beautiful "4000 Miles" (presented by American Conservatory Theater) and the thoughtful "After the Revolution" (at the Aurora), she examines families lost at the crossroads of past and present, personal and political.
Letts is an actor-playwright best known for "August: Osage County," a soap-operatic epic set at a bruising family gathering in an old Oklahoma homestead where Mom hides pills in her private parts, Dad drinks likes a fish and then disappears, and the rest of the clan explodes in screams and tears. The Pulitzer winner has been hailed as the greatest American play in ages, but Letts has also charmed theatergoers with thrillers such as "Bug," "Killer Joe" and "Superior Donuts," all of which have been staged locally.
This Scottish playwright has a gift for unlocking the magic and horror lurking within the everyday, the way that life can turn from silly to shocking on a dime. That enigmatic power connects all her plays, from the sublime "Any Given Day" and the intriguing "Every Five Minutes," both of which were staged by the Magic, to the memorable jigsaw puzzle that was "Strangers, Babies," which was staged by Shotgun.
A Pulitzer Prize winner for "Ruined," a powerful play about women broken by the savage civil war in the Congo that got an electric staging at Berkeley Rep in 2011, Nottage has a gift for unearthing lost pieces of culture, history and politics and forcing us to grapple with them. She has a long history locally, with "Las Meninas" making its world premiere at the now-defunct San Jose Rep in 2002 and "Intimate Apparel" being staged at TheatreWorks in 2005.
Long a favorite of Bay Area audiences, steeped in productions from "Eurydice" and "In the Next Room, Or the Vibrator Play" at Berkeley Rep to "The Clean House" at TheatreWorks and "Dead Man's Cell Phone" at SF Playhouse, Ruhl has been hailed for her delicious blend of the quirky, the surreal and the poetic. The Pulitzer-nominated playwright has an enchanting sense of language that is both unique and irresistible and a daring approach to narrative that leaps from the absurd to the heartbreaking.
This noted Irish writer burst onto the scene with the incendiary family drama "The Walworth Farce," which was presented locally by Cal Performances. His eerie command of language and ritual is also on display in "The New Electric Ballroom," which will get its regional premiere at Shotgun Players (Sept. 3-Oct. 5). But the playwright is perhaps best, and somewhat ironically, known for writing the book to the quirky hit musical "Once."
Wallace combines a fearlessly poetic ear with a muscular sense of narrative, politics and history. Her eclectic plays grab you by the intellect as well as by the throat and run away with you, from "The Liquid Plain," which made its world premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival to "The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek" (which got a lovely production at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre some time ago) and "One Flea Spare." Her edgy tale of segregated 1950s America, "And I and Silence," makes its West Coast premiere at San Francisco's Magic Theatre (Oct. 29-Nov. 23) directed by Loretta Greco.
See a review of "Water By the Spoonful" by Quiara Alegría Hudes on Page 72.