Turn Up the Heat! 10 Gripping Plays to Read This Summer

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

June 26, 2018

Summer is prime reading time for people on summer break. Whether you’re moving into another year of high school, progressing through college, or working on lesson plans for teaching over the summer, check out these incredible plays worthy of a poolside read.

1. 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog

After suffering a major loss while he was on a cross-country bike trip, 21 year-old Leo seeks solace from his feisty 91 year-old grandmother Vera in her West Village apartment. Over the course of a single month, these unlikely roommates infuriate, bewilder, and ultimately reach each other. 4000 MILES looks at how two outsiders find their way in today’s world.” – Samuel French

Get the play here.

2. Of Good Stock by Melissa Ross

“When legendary novelist Mick Stockton died, he left his three daughters a house in Cape Cod, control over his books, and a whole lot of issues. Years later, the men in their lives struggle to be a part of this elusive family’s legacy. It’s not always easy keeping up with the hurricane of the whip-smart and sharp-tongued Stockton Sisters. Especially during a weekend filled with dramatic confrontations and surprising confessions. But good scotch helps. A raw, poignant, and hilarious look at the fun and dysfunction of family.” – Dramatists Play Service

Get the play here.

3. Desire Under the Elms by Eugene O’Neill

A fiercely energetic drama of Oedipal lust and yearning involving a rebellious farm boy, his tyrannical father, and the father’s slatternly new wife.” – Samuel French

Get the play here.

4. Detroit by Lisa D’Amour

“In a first-ring suburb just outside a city that might be Detroit, Ben and Mary see sudden signs of life at the deserted house next door and invite their new neighbors Sharon and Kenny over for a barbecue. As the action unfolds we learn that Sharon and Kenny met at rehab, neither is employed, and they don’t own a stick of furniture. The quintessential American back-yard party turns quickly turns into something more dangerous—and filled with potential.” – Dramatists Play Service

Get the play here.

5. The Healing by Samuel D. Hunter

Twenty-five years ago, a motley group of friends met as kids at a summer camp where the head counselor secretly taught them that their disabilities could be “cured” through the power of prayer.  Today, the group has gathered to mourn the untimely passing of one of its members. Over the course of the night, old wounds are uncovered, friendships are tested, and the truth surrounding their late friend becomes troublingly clear.” – Samuel French

Get the play here.

6. Is God Is by Aleshea Harris

“Is God Is is a modern myth about twin sisters who sojourn from the Dirty South to the California desert to exact righteous revenge.” – Samuel French

Get the play here.

7. The Trestle At Pope Lick Creek by Naomi Wallace

“High atop a railroad trestle that spans a bone dry creek, two teenagers plan to race across the bridge against an oncoming locomotive. At first their scheme adds excitement to life in a small factory town during the Great Depression, then sensual experience awakens dangerous passions in an era of stifled ambitions. With theatrical flourish and lyrical finesse, Naomi Wallace delves into a world where people struggle to change lives that bear down upon them.” – Broadway Play Publishing

Get the play here.

8. Painting Churches by Tina Howe

“Gardner and Fanny Church are preparing to move out of their Beacon Hill house to their summer cottage on Cape Cod. Gardner, once a famous poet, now is retired. He slips in and out of senility as his wife Fanny valiantly tries to keep them both afloat. They have asked their daughter, Mags, to come home and help them move. Mags agrees, for she hopes as well to finally paint their portrait. She is now on the verge of artistic celebrity herself and hopes, by painting her parents, to come to terms with them and they with her. Mags triumphs in the end as Fanny and Gardner actually step through the frame and become a work of art ineffable and timeless.” – Samuel French

Buy the play here.

9. Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo

“After grad school, Catherine and Gwen chose polar opposite paths. Catherine built a career as a rockstar academic, while Gwen built a home with her husband and children. Decades later, unfulfilled in polar opposite ways, each woman covets the other’s life, commencing a dangerous game of musical chairs—the prize being Gwen’s husband. With searing insight and trademark wit, this comedy is an unflinching look at gender politics in the wake of 20th-century feminist ideals.” – Dramatists Play Service

Get the play here.

10. Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams

A play that is profoundly affecting, Summer and Smoke is a simple love story of a somewhat puritanical Southern girl and an unpuritanical young doctor. Each is basically attracted to the other but because of their divergent attitudes toward life, each over the course of years is driven away from the other. Not until the end does the doctor realize that the girl’s high idealism is ultimately right, and while she is still in love with him, it turns out that neither time nor circumstances will allow the two to come together.” – Samuel French

Get the play here.



Interested in reading more plays? Check out our other features below!


Ashleigh Gardner received her M.A. in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies (with concentrations in Contemporary Film, Psychoanalytic Theory, and Gender Studies) and her B.A. in English Literature (with concentrations in Early American Literature, Victorian & Gothic Literature, and Feminisms), both from the University of Central Florida. She is a playwright, a Shakespearean trained actor, a dramaturge, and a photographer.
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