Mercy Killers

The One-Man Show performed by Michael Milligan

Take Time Out to see critically acclaimed “Mercy Killers” at the American Theater Company

“Performer Milligan invests the character with a solid reality that lets us fill in all the gaps — we don’t have to be told where he shops or what he listens to on the radio — and convinces us that the story is about much more than a faulty health care system.” THE STAGE

“This is one man theatre at its very best. If you love to be challenged by the theatre you’re watching and leave the theatre willing to ask the questions that make a difference then Mercy Killers is a production you don’t want to miss.” BROADWAY BABY, UK

“The best theater kicks down walls, pulls off the gloves and starts swinging. Mercy Killers, written and performed by Michael Milligan is that kind of play.” HOW WAS THE SHOW

Mercy Killers is a raw, topical piece that shows the collision of ideals and reality in a system where health and well-being go up against profits. It is a show that is very much of the zeitgeist.” STAR TRIBUNE

“A deeply affecting love story. Michael Milligan astonishes.” REVOLUTION BOOKS

“It’s a tricky job, making political issues feel both dramatic and specific, but Milligan pulls it off.” TWIN CITIES.COM /ON STAGE

“There’s a marvelous and mysterious kind of alchemy at work in author and actor Michael Milligan’s mesmerizing, harrowing indictment of US healthcare. Milligan simultaneously delves beneath the foreground issues to the personal and national philosophies underlying the debate Stateside.” THE SCOTSMAN, EDINBURGH

“In our ever-present day of political discourse, finger-pointing, and profitable racket over healthcare, Milligan manages to strip down the arguments by humanizing them to a frustrating but immensely profound degree. A blistering one-man drama.” MANHATTAN DIGEST

“Raw, emotional and devastatingly honest.” THREE WEEKS, EDINBURGH

“The intensity of both the acting and the play’s themes packs a serious punch.” AISLE SAY TWIN CITIES

Now playing at the American Theater Company!

The Chicago Reader recommends

Star Tribune review of Mercy Killers

The actor, agitated and antsy, ably transports us to a world of hurt and desperation. Milligan plays Joe, who owns an auto-body shop and is a big Rush Limbaugh fan.

Joe is steadfast about his red-state political beliefs until his wife is stricken with cancer and loses her health insurance. The two lose their home. The only way for them to make her medical care affordable is to divorce.

He does more than that, which explains his current dilemma. Joe is being questioned in a basement room in an Ohio police station. The officers are offstage, somewhere in the audience. But we are less his interrogator than witnesses to a sad story.

Dressed in layers of dark clothes that include a coat and a hoodie, Milligan’s Joe looks like someone who may have to sleep under a bridge.

Milligan wrote the 60-minute play, which was a success in the New York Fringe Festival and is touring the nation. Directed by Tom Oppenheim, the production is equal parts agitprop theater in a venue known for socially engaged works and a vehicle for Milligan to show his theatrical chops.

Milligan has had roles on Broadway in “August: Osage County,” “La Bête” and “Jerusalem.” Under Oppenheim’s guidance he invests Joe with intense physicality, even as he shows glimmers of tenderness.

The story is told as much with gestures as with words that come flying out like flushed birds. Even his incomplete sentences are telling. When he recalls the vows he and his wife made to each other, he emphasizes the verb and leaves out the traditional last word.

“Till death do us,” he says, pausing.

This play is a raw, topical piece that shows the collision of ideals and reality in a system where health and well-being go up against profits. It is a show that is very much of the zeitgeist.
Preston Rohan, Star Tribune

Read the entire review

Now playing at the American Theater Company

Pulitzer prize winner Chris Hedges reviews Mercy Killers

untitled (3)“Milligan’s high-octane performance is raw with grief, rage and incomprehension. The stark set—a chair, a bright light and a table—highlights Joe’s loneliness, inadequacy and abandonment. And by the end of the play, a for-profit health care system that is responsible for more than 60 percent of all U.S. bankruptcies is no longer just a matter of statistics. Its reality is felt like the blast of a furnace.” Chris Hedges
Read the entire review at Truth Dig.


Playwright as Tribune- Scotsman Mercy Killers review: “5 Stars.”

5 Stars, The Scotsman. Edinburgh.

There’s a marvellous and mysterious kind of alchemy at work in author and actor Michael Milligan’s mesmerising, harrowing indictment of US healthcare. Not only is it theatre distilled to its most basic essentials – one ordinary individual telling his story, as if to an invisible interrogator, his only props a table and chair – but it’s unambiguously specific in its objectives: to attack a system responsible for more than 60 per cent of US personal bankruptcies, within which most of those driven to this last resort had health insurance when their medical problems began.

It’s also patently fuelled by profound outrage, and yet all these elements are so skilfully and meticulously controlled, in both the writing and performance, so thoroughly transmuted in service of storytelling, drama and characterisation, that the effect is gripping first and foremost on a painfully human level, even as Milligan simultaneously delves beneath the foreground issues to the personal and national philosophies underlying the debate Stateside….

Read the entire review from The Scotsman

Now playing at the American Theater Company


Chicago Critic reviews Mercy Strain at ATC

In this 57 minute one person drama, Mercy Strain, we meet a working class rural Ohio man, Joe, who tells the police about the events that brought the cops to his home. Joe is a red-neck Rush Limbaugh listener whose life falls apart when his young  wife is diagnosed with breast cancer. When their insurance cannot cover his wife’s treatments,  bankruptcy ensues and then, divorce follows so Medicaid can help save her.

Michael Milligan’s fantastic and deeply emotional performance aptly dramatized the problems of our healthcare system. Milligan puts the struggle into stark human terms with all the dyer effects. Milligan is a polished performer who quickly engages us into his world of nightmares. This piece is the best argument for Obama care that I seen yet.

These two parts of the healthcare plays are riveting theatre. They play separately. I’m not sure who the audience is for Let Me Down Easy or Mercy Strain since 20-30somethings and seniors alike don’t like to speak or think about death and sickness. But the two performance (by Usman Ally and Michael Milligan) compel us to get to ATC.


Tom Williams

Read the entire review at


Mercy Strain Review Chicago Reader

Review of Mercy Strain at the American Theater Company in Chicago


“A pre-Obamacare study from 2009 found that a large percentage of Americans are one serious illness away from financial ruin. This gripping hour-long monologue by writer-performer Michael Milligan details precisely how it might happen. Milligan plays an Appalachian auto mechanic whose wife is diagnosed with breast cancer at the height of the great recession. As her condition worsens, astronomical medical bills pile up, the house goes into foreclosure, and mounting desperation finally leads to an act of violence. Though Milligan obviously intends to show us how unfair things can be for the working poor, his script is more than propaganda; the protagonist is allowed his flaws, contradictions, and idiosyncrasies. As a performer, Milligan is riveting, conveying a fascinating mix of decency, heartbreak, and impotent fury.” —Zac Thompson

Read the original review from the Chicago Reader


Review of Mercy Strain in Chicago: “a simple but powerful cry for change.”

A review from a theater critic in Chicago from the run at the American Theater Company.

New City Stage


As I walked into the theater and was greeted by the set for “Mercy Strain” I had to smile to myself. The show has been advertised as a hit at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and as it happens I have just recently returned from a visit to the 2014 festival. While there, my friends and I joked that every show we saw had a few things in common, namely the fact that they all included very few actual things. The slots in Edinburgh are so tight that any extraneous props or set pieces have to be cut, lest the time you spend setting up lead to the lights being switched off mid-climax because you’ve run five minutes over. The perfect Fringe show, we would say, probably involves nothing more than a table, a chair and one actor just acting his butt off. Lo and behold, the set for “Mercy Strain” turns out to consist of one table and one chair. All that was needed was one actor acting his butt off and the set would be complete. Happily, by the end of the evening, actor Michael Milligan’s butt is nowhere to be found.

Read the entire review at New City Stage


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