The Healthcare Plays

Anna Deavere Smith's Let Me Down Easy and Michael Milligan's Mercy Strain, both in their Chicago premieres, will provide critical exploration of topical healthcare issues during the run-up to the 2014 elections.

Let Me Down Easy

Written by Anna Deavere Smith
Directed by Bonnie Metzgar
Featuring ATC Ensemble Member Usman Ally
September 13 – October 10



Mercy Strain

Written and Performed by Michael Milligan
Directed by Tom Oppenheim
September 14 – October 18

Previews through September 17: $38/play

Regular performances beginning September 19:
Tues, Wed, Thurs 8pm Evenings and
Sat, Sun 2pm Matinees: $43/play
Sun 7pm Evenings: $43/play
Fri & Sat 8pm Evenings: $48/play

design team

coming soon!

the ensemble

coming soon!

Letter from PJ

Dear Friends,

Welcome to American Theater Company and our first two productions of Season 30: the Chicago premieres of Let Me Down Easy by Anna Deavere Smith and Mercy Strain by Michael Milligan.

ATC produces plays that ask the core question of our mission: “What does it mean to be an American?” While our goal is to create understanding and empathy around the many topical issues we explore, at times you can comfortably watch a play from a distance and think, “Wow, they have it hard.” Inescapably, these two plays are about us. Until our consciousness can be transferred into the latest Apple iCloud, our bodies will break. These two plays provide a theatrical meditation on how Americans deal with that inevitability.

While widely known for her roles in The West Wing and Nurse Jackie, Anna Deavere Smith is a pioneer of documentary theater. Her work on the 1992 Los Angeles riots inspired me to develop my own documentary pieces like columbinus. For this project, Anna sat and interviewed dozens of diverse subjects on the quality of living and dying. I’m grateful to her for providing ATC the opportunity to produce this play— and more so, for allowing a man to step into her shoes. Ensemble member Usman Ally is one of ATC’s treasures. His intellectual curiosity and social activism are rivaled only by his remarkable talent, which is showcased in this one-man tour de force directed by my dear friend and collaborator, Bonnie Metzgar.

While Let Me Down Easy captures a variety of perspectives, Mercy Strain digs deep into one. As a writer, actor and activist, Michael Milligan embodies the artist in service to his community. Out of interviews and his own personal experiences, Michael has crafted a story of the American Everyman who is destroyed by our healthcare system. After receiving the top prize at the Edinburg Fringe Festival and an applauded off-Broadway run, Michael chose to take his character’s extraordinary journey into the heart of the country’s most blighted communities. He has performed after Sunday service in Appalachian churches, in town halls in the rural Midwest, in colleges and universities in New England, and even in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He has also nurtured partnerships with healthcare unions, single payer advocacy groups, and medical practitioners across the country including the Illinois Single Payer Collation and Nurses United, which have partnered with ATC on this Chicago production. Through art, Michael is creating dialogue in communities around the country. We are thrilled he is making his Chicago debut at ATC.

If you enjoyed what you saw today, we are offering a buy one and get the second one half off incentive. These two plays provide diverse entryways into the subject of healthcare and the quality of life in America; I encourage you to get the full experience by attending both plays and opening a dialogue after the shows in your home, at work, and in your own communities.

Thank you for your patronage. We are so glad you are here.

Your Artistic Director,


ATC's Health Care Plays among Fall Theater Recommendations from RedEye Chicago and the Chicago Tribune which lists the shows being among "10 upcoming attractions of especially striking scope, theme and heart"