The Best Plays/Playwrights of All Time

  1. Before even opening the script: Picture yourself in the audience. It’s 7:56pm. The show starts at 8pm, but they’ll probably start closer to 8:02pm. You just had a quick dinner, used the rest room, said Hello to some of your friends, used the rest room a second time to make sure your hair looks good in case your theatre crush happens to come to the show tonight, then go back in to find your seat. You’re reading the playbill, you look at the actors’ credits, compare them to your own, look for typos, look at the director’s note. One of your friends sees you and asks if you’re going to the party after the show. You start to answer when you see the lights dimming and you say you’ll find them at intermission to catch up. You silence your cell phone because you don’t want to be “that guy” and make sure you’re not hogging too much arm rest from your new seat-neighbors for the next two hours.
  2. The house lights are off, the curtain rises and the roller coaster that we call live Theatre is about to begin. NOW open the script and start reading.
  3. If the script has a break between Acts 1 and 2, give yourself an actual Intermission in your home. Go to the bathroom. Turn your phone back on. Check your email. Remember, the actual audience will be returning to these characters about 15 minutes later, so you can’t just read right from Act 1 into Act 2. (This is the same reason why I like to watch movies in one sitting, and why I don’t like to binge watch TV: if you were meant to take the week in between episodes to think about the show, then you’re doing yourself a disservice by watching one directly after the other).
  4. Remember that actors actually have to say these lines. So, the words may look pretty on paper, but will they actually play well? Will an actor actually be able to make them work for a live audience? It wouldn’t hurt to literally read some of the lines aloud for yourself to hear how they sound and see if a halfway-decent actor could reasonably come up with a few ways to deliver the line.
  5. Be aware of the set, lighting, sound, and where the actors are onstage while the dialogue is happening. While the dialogue is clearly the most important part of the script, it is NOT the only part. Again, while reading a novel, you only have to be concerned with the line you are currently reading. That is not so with scripts, where you have to be aware of the entire stage picture.

Favorite Overall: Brighton Beach Memoirs (Neil Simon)

Brothers Eugene and Stanley Jerome in Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs”.

Best Overall: All My Sons (Arthur Miller)

Best Short Script: Sure Thing (David Ives)

Betty and Bill in David Ives’s short play, “Sure Thing”.

Best One-Act Script: The Lover (Harold Pinter)

The husband and wife in Harold Pinter’s “The Lover”.

Best Legal Script: Twelve Angry Men (Reginald Rose)

Best Race Script: “Master Harold”…and the Boys (Athol Fugard)

Best Contemporary Script: Gloria (Brandan Jacobs-Jenkins)

Two cast members in Brandan Jacobs-Jenkins’s “Gloria”.

Best Non-Traditional Script: My First Time (Ken Davenport)

The cast of Ken Davenport’s unique play, “My First Time”.

Best Script by an Absurdist Playwright: The Goat or Who is Sylvia (Edward Albee)

Martin and Billy in Edward Albee’s “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?”

Most Heartbreaking Script to read: Jake’s Women (Neil Simon)

The cast of Neil Simon’s “Jake’s Women”.

Best Farce Script: Leading Ladies (Ken Ludwig)

Leo and Jack, dressed as “Maxine” and “Stephanie”, respectively, in Ken Ludwig’s “Leading Ladies”.

Best Greek Comedy Script: Lysistrata (Aristophanes)

The cast of the Greek classic comedy “Lysistrata”, by Aristophanes.

Best Greek Tragedy Script: The Medea (Euripides) (translated by Rex Warner)

Best Holocaust Script: The Diary of Anne Frank (Frances Goodrich/Albert Hackett)

The cast of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s adaptation of “The Dairy of Anne Frank”.

Best Hidden Gem Script: The Creation of the World and Other Business (Arthur Miller)

Adam and Eve (with her forbidden fruit) in Arthur Miller’s “The Creation of the World and Other Business”

*Bonus* Best Neil Simon Script: Lost in Yonkers

Jay and Arty with their grandmother in Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers”.

The Rest of the Pack

Neil Simon

  1. The Odd Couple
  2. The Odd Couple (Female Version)
  3. Fools
  4. Biloxi Blues (sequel to Brighton Beach Memoirs)
  5. Broadway Bound (3rd in Brighton trilogy)
  6. The Good Doctor
  7. I Ought to Be in Pictures
  8. Laughter On the 23rd Floor
  9. Last of the Red Hot Lovers
  10. London Suite
  11. Come Blow Your Horn (really funny with a good amount of heart too, great example of Neil Simon’s style.)
  12. Rumors
  13. California Suite
  14. The Gingerbread lady
  15. Proposals
  16. Plaza Suite
  17. Barefoot in the Park
  18. The Star-Spangled Girl
  19. The Sunshine Boys
  20. The Prisoner of Second Avenue
  21. They’re Playing Our Song
  22. God’s Favorite
  23. Chapter Two
  24. Rose’s Dilemma

Arthur Miller

  1. The Creation of the World and Other Business (relatively unknown but a real hidden gem cause very clever look at beginning of the world.)
  2. An Enemy of the People (Great adaptation of Ibsen’s classic.)
  3. Death of A Salesman (didn’t love the first time I read it but read it again and liked it a lot more; one of those that you gain more appreciation for the more you read it.)
  4. The Crucible (very long and a bit hard to get through, but well-written and a classic.)
  5. View From a Bridge
  6. The Last Yankee
  7. Incident at Vichy
  8. Broken Glass
  9. The Price

David Lindsay-Abaire

  1. Rabbit Hole
  2. Wonder of the World
  3. Good People

David Ives

  1. New Jerusalem; The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656
  2. The Red Address
  3. Captive Audience (eerie, got some goosebumps.)
  4. English Made Simple (similar to Sure Thing, have also seen this performed and it was great.)
  5. Bolero
  6. The Green Hill
  7. Ancient History (a little tedious but overall very good.)
  8. A Singular Kinda Guy (cute, short.)
  9. Time Flies (cute, short.)
  10. The Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage (so weird but so charming.)
  11. Soap Opera (like if David Ives wrote Little Shop of Horrors.)

Reginald Rose

  1. The Remarkable Incident at Carson Corners (tv play, could easily work on stage w/lighting effects to signify the flashbacks.)

Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

  1. Inherit the Wind (one of the best plays I’ve ever read. A lot of brilliant lines, good monologues, great scenes. I actively was anxious/excited/nervous about how it would end. Great stage directions too.)

John Patrick Shanley

  1. Doubt

Gabriel Davis

Greg Kalleres

  1. Honky

Athol Fugard

  1. Playland

August Wilson

  1. Fences
  2. The Piano Lesson

Oscar Wilde

  1. An Ideal Husband
  2. The Importance of Being Earnest
  3. Lady Windermere’s Fan
  4. A Woman of No Importance

Lorainne Hansberry

  1. Raisin in the Sun

Thornton Wilder

  1. Our Town

Henrik Ibsen

  1. An Enemy of the People
  2. A Doll’s House

Sophie Treadwell

  1. Machinal (not a ton of young people like this one, but I loved it and the message it had about women in society.)

Beth Henley

  1. Crimes of the Heart

Lillian Hellman

  1. The Little Foxes
  2. The Children’s Hour

William Gibson

  1. The Miracle Worker

Ken Ludwig

  1. Lend Me a Tenor (very formulaic for a Ludwig play but laugh out loud funny. A bit Neil Simon-esque.)

Noel Coward

  1. Private Lives (really more of a comedic drama than a comedy. A lot of pain in this one, not perfect but really well-written.)
  2. Blithe Spirit

Adam Rapp

  1. The Metal Children (very well-crafted play about censorship.)
  2. Red Light Winter

Moliere

  1. Tartuffe
  2. The School for Wives (Morris Bishop translation) (very funny, great scenes throughout, simple)
  3. Critique of The School for Wives (Morris Bishop translation) (beautifully meta-he’s making fun of people who don’t like the show…right after the audience has just seen the show).
  4. The Misanthrope (not a great ending but good scenes/monologues throughout).
  5. The Physician in Spite of Himself (like other Moliere plays in that it doesn’t end great, but is still fun overall).

Brian Clark

  1. Whose Life Is It Anyway? (one of the more intriguing plays I’ve ever read. Really my kind of play.)

Tom Griffin

  1. The Boys Next Door (Some of the most fleshed-out characters I’ve ever read.)

Rebecca Gilman

  1. Spinning Into Butter (very good piece on race/subtle racism/white guilt.)
  2. Luna Gale

Bert V. Royal

  1. Dog Sees God

James Goldman

  1. The Lion in Winter (While it wasn’t a perfect script, the dialogue was very witty, clever, and fast-paced. It was like reading a modern adaptation of a Shakespearean story. High stakes, strong scenes.)

Anton Chekhov

  1. The Bear (nice, short play)

David Auburn

  1. Proof

Jesse Eisenberg

  1. The Spoils

Seneca

  1. Thyestes (some long, dragging monologues but some epic, heart-palpitating scenes, some nice word play.)

Unknown

  1. Everyman (interesting metaphors for how you can’t take it with you when it comes to materialistic things.)

Bertolt Brecht

  1. Fear and Misery of the Third Reich (haunting and really good overall, even if his other works aren’t my cup of tea.)

Ben Caldwell

  1. Prayer Meeting; Or, The First Militant Preacher (very good, short satirical. Metaphorical but clear.)

Qui Nguyen

  1. Vietgone (very funny, flows very well, ton of great monologues/scenes.)

Guan Hanqing

  1. Snow in Midsummer (very presentational but nice, short piece of theatre history.)

Doug Wright

  1. I Am My Own Wife (interesting premise, needs phenomenal actor.)

Theodore Ward

  1. Big White Fog (like Brighton Beach Memoirs meets Raisin in the Sun.)

William Wells Brown

  1. The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom (surprisingly satirical/funny.)

Douglas Turner Ward

  1. Day of Absence (not terrifically written but fascinating concept and funny satire, important historically.)

Ntozake Shange

  1. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf (Not the easiest read, but definitely get the sense it’s much better seen than read.)

Lynn Nottage

  1. Ruined (not perfect but some very heavy stuff, made me physically nauseous/queasy which few plays have done.)

Luigi Pirandello

  1. Six Characters in Search of An Author (beautifully meta) (Drama Classics edition.)

Eugene Ionesco

  1. Rhinoceros (translated by Derek Prouse. Delightfully ridiculous. Laugh out loud funny, ambiguity was clear.)

Frank Galati/John Steinbeck

  1. The Grapes of Wrath (American classic. Excellent first act, okay second act. If second act was as strong as first, would’ve been masterpiece.)

Conor McPherson

  1. St. Nicholas (certainly not his most well-known, but very unique, engaging, and interesting premise.)
  2. This Lime Tree Bower (no idea what the title or even the whole play is supposed to mean, but like reading an entertaining, poetic, stream-of-consciousness journal entry.)

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Actor. Comedian. Writer. Director. For all things Datz, check out eddiedatz.com

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Eddie Datz

Eddie Datz

Actor. Comedian. Writer. Director. For all things Datz, check out eddiedatz.com

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