Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: “I Hate it Here” Nails the Nuance of “these unprecedented times”

Studio Theatre's sophomore audio play is a hilarious, and exhausting, romp through our struggles with race, identity and grief in the era of social distancing.

Review: “I Hate it Here” Nails the Nuance of “these unprecedented times”

Once in a while, a phrase comes along that defines an era. The late 70s and "I Love New York." The 80s and "just say no." The "hope and change" of the mid-aughts. "I hate it here" and our year of plague, racial unrest and political polarization.

"I hate it here" is so 2020 that it is the perfect title for Studio Theatre's second audio play; a work so zeitgeist-y it is exposure therapy for "these unprecedented times."

Playwright and director Ike Holter's I Hate it Here: Stories from the End of the Old World tackles race, the presidential election, the #MeToo movement, the 400,000 COVID-19 deaths and more in about the time it takes for the curtain to fall on a one-act play. The work's 11 vignettes, recorded at home by a cast of just seven actors, joins a host of other pandemic-era anthologies warring for our attention in quarantine. But what makes I Hate it Here standout is its unique format -- think Hamilton mixtape meets Orson Wells' The War of the Worlds -- and its ability to turn quotidien truths into palatable spectacle.

Holter's wordsmithery -- "chuckle f-cks," or "gargles at me like some drunk-ass swamp troll" or "old Activia yogurt-white" -- cuts sharply through the mind-numbing boredom of yet another night asking a screen for entertainment. Of course, the narrative only benefits from the aural world Noel Nikhols, Gabriel Ruiz and Mikhail Fiksel create. Crashing waves or a hissing bus conjures a craggy bluff or a hot summer street. At one point a blunt is lit and, on hearing it crackle, one can practically smell the weed.

Of course, the aural story is just a box for the actors' talent. Sydney Charles, Ruiz, and Behzad Dabu give standout performances as characters both over-the-top and deeply relatable. "You will break your back for this company till we say stop because you're family," Ruiz, playing a malignant fast-food manager -- and every toxic authority figure ever -- shouts in "That Chicken Place." While Charles as Ms. Marcy, a teacher dealing with a dyslexic student from a racist family in "You First," is as fed up with being "listened to'' as anyone in a diversity and inclusion seminar has ever been. In "Fuck that Place," Dabu delivers some of the work's best lines less like standup, and more like the funny friend describing the worst job they've ever had.

"Bystander," one of the play's more self-contained narratives, creates two of the most captivating characters. Lisa (Jennifer Mendenhall) and Thomas (Jaysen Wright) debate political correctness at a COVID-era wedding, but their conversation isn't really about them. In a twist worthy of a Black Mirror episode, the scene turns on the audience, demanding that listeners ask themselves the same questions plaguing the characters.

As dynamic as the work is, deftly mixing American Idiot-esque tunes with witty dialogue, confronting our pain for 80 minutes is exhausting. Studio Theatre has graciously offered the work free-of-charge, so maybe take a break. Or share it with others to commiserate. Just be sure to include this warning: I Hate it Here will make you detest your wokeness, reconsider your friendships and marvel at how the only way out of all this is through.


Audiences can listen to I Hate it Here for free on Studio's website until March 7, 2021.

I Hate It Here is part of Studio In Your Ears, the Theatre's series of free audio dramas that also includes an adaptation of Sarah Burgess's political drama Kings.




From This Author - Lora Strum

An award-winning freelance journalist specializing in long-form, community-focused storytelling, Lora has written for the Washington City Paper, the PBS NewsHour, Marquette Magazine, BroadwayWorld.com, PhillyVoice,... (read more about this author)


Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet Trades Timeliness For Timelessness  at The David H. Koch TheaterReview: Pacific Northwest Ballet Trades Timeliness For Timelessness at The David H. Koch Theater
June 23, 2022

To designate something as a “classic,” like a diamond, is to guarantee its significance forever. The Pacific Northwest Ballet is by this definition, wholly classic, @lorastrum writes.

BWW Review: GALLIM Dance Company's BLUSH is Anything But ShyBWW Review: GALLIM Dance Company's BLUSH is Anything But Shy
April 28, 2022

In GALLIM Dance Company's 'BLUSH,' so many moments feel like a mental breakdown. Perhaps that madness is what lies just outside the theater, or perhaps that’s what audiences will leave behind.

BWW Review:  The Dance Theatre of Harlem Takes Audiences on a Journey at New York City CenterBWW Review: The Dance Theatre of Harlem Takes Audiences on a Journey at New York City Center
April 10, 2022

In a diverse, three-part program featuring choreography by Robert Garland, Claudia Schreirer and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, audiences are gently guided through the hope and despair at war in every place.

BWW Review:  Ballet Hispánico's Doña Perón Is Not Just a PerformanceBWW Review: Ballet Hispánico's Doña Perón Is Not Just a Performance
April 2, 2022

Making its New York premiere at the City Center Dance Festival April 1-3, Doña Perón is an explosive and emotional retelling of the life of Eva “Evita” Perón, one of the most recognizable and controversial women in Argentinian history.

BWW Review: THE PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY USHERS IN NEW ERA IN THE ARTS at New York City CenterBWW Review: THE PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY USHERS IN NEW ERA IN THE ARTS at New York City Center
March 27, 2022

It’s clear that night three of the City Center Dance Festival will not be a carefree return to our yesteryears, but a step into what comes next in the arts.  There is no better steward for this unknown future than The Paul Taylor Dance Company.