I HATE IT HERE at Goodman is a Cathartic End to a Dumpster Year — Review

Director Lili-Anne Brown and Sydney Charles (Ashawna) | Photo by Flint Chaney
Nolan Boggess
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July 16, 2021 2:47 PM

This past year sucked. Really sucked. 

Like many others in 2020, I depended upon art and media to teleport me far away from reality. I binged new tv shows across all platforms in fear a dreaded Covid plot line would appear. I stood frozen every time I heard a reference of the times in a dialogue or lyric. No media was safe.

What was worse, I found, was the encouragement underneath the pre-apocalyptic-2020 based media. We were told to put on a brave face. We heard that we were all in this together. That things will be normal again. Normal? How can we pretend that any of this didn’t happen?

This is to say, I found Goodman Theatre’s explosive conclusion to their LIVE streaming series I Hate It Here to be quite a relief. Written by Ike Holter and directed by Lili-Anne Brown, I Hate It Here is a powerful episodic ode to how absolutely horrible 2020 was. The show is volcanic, blowing up the not so obvious suck of the past year and dousing everything in lava. It feels like leaving a can of Sprite in a hot car all day, shaking it up, and cracking it loose. I mean all of this in the best way possible.

Jayson Brooks | Photo: Flint Chaney

Originally an audio play at Studio Theatre, the now fully staged I Hate It Here is a fitting end to Goodman Theatre’s Live series. As in-person theatre reopens (side note: let’s keep doing digital theatre too), an exorcism of 2020 is necessary. Told through a mosaic of short scenes, the show centers on ideas of labor, activism, grief, inheritance, and isolation, among others. The versatile ensemble cast throws you into the escalating scenes connected by the titular throughline: I hate it here.

“How much longer do we have to put up with the bullshit and pretend it’s not bullshit?” says one desperate lover to another in bed. “We got rid of 19 employees in the last month because nobody wants to work anymore,” says the emotionally tormented fast food manager. “To be honest with you, that’s the fucked up shit we keep passing on,” says the aged teacher on a smoke break.

I give these quotes to suggest the profane and profound quality of I Hate It Here.

The entire cast (Patrick Agada, Jayson Brooks, Sydney Charles, Behzad Dabu, Kirsten Fitzgerald and Gabriel Ruiz) is phenomenal. Seeing the full cast open the show with the Rent-like rock banger “I Hate It Here” is an absolute highlight of the show. Especially good is Charles who slides into a range of characters with deep emotion and ease. The penultimate scene with Brooks, Charles, and Ruiz about the inheritance, pain, and success of activism provides some deeper emotional work the previous scenes lack (not that they necessarily need them). Something to also look forward to is the final scene - a rousing performance by a Special Guest.

Praise must be given to playwright and director duo Holter and Brown, who manage to keep the show cutting, shocking, and charged during the 70-min run. The show transcends expectations of first-thought grievances of 2020, which is much appreciated. Praise must also be given to the entire production and film team who seamlessly bring the twelve scenes to life. It is shocking how much progress can be made in the digital realm over one year.

On a deeper note, I Hate It Here admits that so many horrible things in the world remain unchanged. The show does not suggest things will get better. Yet, if we take a moment to admit how bad things are, maybe we can find some common, solid ground. And that’s a start.

If you wish to have a cathartic scream about how bad the last year was - do I have the show for you.

“I Hate It Here” is now streaming through July 18. For tickets and more information, visit here

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Nolan Boggess

Nolan Boggess is a director and writer living in Brooklyn. Originally from Iowa, Nolan’s theatre obsession began with the VHS of Cats and one too many productions of The Music Man. A graduate of Grinnell College, Nolan currently works as a COVID Safety Manager on Broadway. He is so thrilled to be apart of the Theatrely team - say hi to him on social media!

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