‘Surprised and Dismayed’: Readers Respond to Our Best 25 Plays List

Readers were impressed and infuriated — sometimes both at once — by “The Great Work Continues,” in which our chief theater critics, Ben Brantley and Jesse Green, along with the critics Laura Collins-Hughes, Alexis Soloski and Elisabeth Vincentelli, proposed a list of the 25 best American plays since 1993.

Some commenters wanted to recognize plays that did not make the cut, others wanted to cut plays that did. Still others objected to the idea of a list in the first place, noting its intrinsically arbitrary and invidious nature.

[The 25 Best American Plays Since “Angels in America”]

Since the purpose of the project was to start a conversation about recent American playwriting, we’re happy with all of it. Below, a sampling of the feedback so far, edited and condensed, with titles and writers that hadn’t made our earlier lists in bold.

Omissions (Part 1)

“Disgraced” by Ayad Akhtar definitely belongs here. Timely and important articulation of the double bind immigrants find themselves in, and why some — in this case the children — turn to extremism. CAROLP, Los Angeles

I was surprised and dismayed not to see “All the Way” by Robert Schenkkan included — not even on the “extras” you published. I admit to not having seen many of the plays on the list, but I can’t imagine that this play wouldn’t have been considered exceptional among those I had seen. JULIE KAUFMAN

This is such a perplexing list to me. “Topdog/Underdog” isn’t even Suzan-Lori Parks’s best play. “Father Comes Home From the Wars” (Parts 1, 2 and 3) is more daring. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s “Everybody” is more affecting than “An Octoroon.” “Ruined” is No. 6? “Seven Guitars” is No. 8?! I can’t. CHRISTIAN NWACHUKWU

With so many glaring omissions, it’s hard to take this list seriously. What about Moisés Kaufman’s “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde,” Neil LaBute’s “Bash” and “The Shape of Things,” Edward Albee’s “The Goat,” Paula Vogel’s “Indecent,” Donald Margulies’s “Collected Stories,” Richard Greenberg’s “Take Me Out,” John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” and Noah Haidle’s “Mr. Marmalade”? JULES, Los Angeles

New York snobbery?

I’m all for promoting these writers, but this is more like “A New York Guide to The New York Times’s Favorite 25 Plays of the Last 25 Years That Were Produced in New York.” SEAN DOUGLASS

I live in “flyover country,” have rarely been to N.Y.C. to see plays, and still I’ve seen 13 of the 25. That’s because I live in St. Louis which has a lively theater scene with more than 20 small professional companies dedicated to bringing us wonderful contemporary plays. I’d add Sarah Treem’s “The How and the Why.” I loved it when two of our best local actresses, Amy Loui and Sophia Brown, showed us the generation gap between scientists, both in their work and in their personal lives. ST. LOUIS WOMAN, Missouri

What a treasure this list is. I’ve only seen seven and not many more have made it to Australia. Let’s see them, companies. JASON WHITTAKER

These lists are always great conversation starters! We’re glad to see the love for “The Wolves” — part of our 2018-19 season — among so many wonderful plays. What else would you like to see in New Orleans? @southern_rep

Omissions (Part 2)

I would have made room for Lisa D’Amour’s “Detroit” — probably taking “An Octoroon” off. But you know, it’s actually a pretty good list, as these things go. Good work, folks! DANIEL PINKERTON, Minneapolis

So many wonderful plays on the New York Times list. So many not. I want to examine why Eisa Davis’s play “Bulrusher” is not. One of the great reads in my life. Resist the gatekeepers and please buy and read it. PAULA VOGEL, playwright

The best play I’ve seen in the past 25 years is “Red,” about the painter Mark Rothko. It should be on your list. MIKI F., North Carolina

“The Brother/Sister Plays” by Tarell Alvin McCraney seems to me a glaring absence. PATRICK MALEY

By far the best American playwright during this period was Christopher Durang, who had at least three full-length plays produced. No wonder I don’t take lists such as this seriously. ELSHEMUS, New York

Wrong wrong wrong

I would personally burn the wart of “Clybourne Park” off the list if someone gave me a blowtorch. I would quietly escort the “Apple Plays” off the premises. There’s a lot I agree with. But no Samuel D. Hunter feels like a weird gap. NICOLE SERRATORE

I’ve seen or read most of these, and found the vast majority of them flawed at best, dismal, or even downright annoying at worst. If I never see anything as awful as “Mr. Burns” or as incoherent as “Topdog/Underdog” or “The Realistic Joneses” again, I will consider myself a fortunate person. BILL GRABARKEWITZ Pacifica, Calif.

A dreary list, a compendium of the mediocre and the overpraised. That serious critics can see these works as the “best” of anything is an indication of the increasing irrelevance of contemporary American drama. BRIAN MCAFEE, New York

I won’t link to that New York Times list because it did not include a single Sam Hunter or Josh Harmon play and can therefore (expletive) right off. “Mr. Burns” is one of my favorite plays though. @j_spencer

This is so great!!! What a wonderful list — I love the high placement of “An Octoroon.” I might have swapped in “God’s Ear,” “Architecting,” “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” and “10 out of 12.” Interesting to note the absence of “Doubt,” and (maybe) “Time Stands Still.” HARRISON HILL

A great list, but I would have included “4000 Miles,” by Amy Herzog, the charming story mounted by Lincoln Center Theater about an elderly New Yorker who reluctantly takes in her grandson but is then sorry when it comes time for him to leave. (If you’re looking for something to drop to make way, my vote is for “Mr. Burns,” but in fairness, I saw a regional production out of state and I just didn’t get it.) Can’t wait for your list of musicals. I dare you to not put “Hamilton” at the top. ROBERT STONE, New York

This is pretty thorough, and I’m glad you included Mee in the also-rans. (I’d put “Paradise Park”/Summer Evening in Des Moines” on my personal top 25.) “A Doll’s House Part 2” and “Significant Other” are the omissions I would add. Maybe another Annie Baker too. Oh and “Take Me Out.” RICHARD LAWSON

Playing the numbers

“An Octoroon” at No. 2! It’s No. 1 in my heart, but we can agree to disagree New York Times 🙂 CHRIS MYERS (an actor in the play’s original cast)

Much as I hate lists that indicate orders of value, which is temporal and shifting in the theater, this is an exciting reminder. But I also think Neil LaBute’s “Bash” should be there. Was it No. 26? @DavidLeveaux

In 2002, I wrote a play called “My Renaissance Faire Lady” that had a VERY respectable run at the Ontological-Hysteric Theater. I can only assume it was No. 26. EVAN CABNET, artistic director of LCT3

And one more thing

I gots a lotta thoughts about this list, lemme tell ya. MOSTLY positive though! Also, Yeesh there are quite a few plays I have not yet read. *Immediately slaps self and goes to Samuel French website* LIZ KERIN

I love this piece, but the feeling it leaves me with is this: The best American writers today aren’t working in theater, they’re working in television and film. Let’s be honest: Eugene O’Neill could write half of these plays in an afternoon. LUCIANO JONES

Is it O.K. that I don’t care what New York Times thinks are the best plays? The plays that move you and me are going to be different and that’s O.K. ADAM SZYMKOWICZ

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page AR7 of the New York edition with the headline: Let the Conversation About the List Begin. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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