By Joan Ross Sorkin


(Zoom Reading excerpts from Part I. Click video audio bars to start and adjust audio volume.)




This Is Serious is a four-part, four-character COVID play set in New Rochelle, NY, the first epicenter of the virus on the east coast. The play, written in “real time,” is about the Granville family and how they try to make sense out of life amid the pandemic. By exploring stress in a time of crisis when life and death hang in the balance, the family dynamic is laid bare. The play dramatizes how easily hopes and dreams can be dashed and how fear and uncertainly cause our worst impulses to rear their ugly heads.


Part I (“Between A Rock and A Hard Place”) begins on March 11, 2020 when Maggie and Richard are self-quarantined, but their plans are upended when their freshman college son Petey arrives home with his former Latinx girlfriend Anna who lives across the hall from the COVID-infected custodian from Young Israel, the original hotspot. Wanting to protect her family at all cost, Maggie is at loggerheads with Petey, while Richard plays the peacemaker. Things get more complicated when Maggie’s sister Laurie contracts the virus in Massachusetts and wants to come and stay with them in New Rochelle. An unexpected accident occurs to disrupt their lives even further and leads to the outcome of Part I.


Part II (“Double Whammy”) continues the saga of the Granvilles almost three months later, on Wed., May 27, two days after George Floyd is murdered in Minneapolis. In the interim Anna and Petey have broken up, but the Granvilles are still in lockdown, as COVID still rages. Questions of racial injustice are raised by the Black Lives Matter protests, and racism, guns and violence are debated by the family. However, their views are tested when Anna secretly arrives and wants Petey to go with her to the protest in Brooklyn that Saturday night. The collision between the events outside and those occurring within the family leads to a surprise ending.


Part III (“Life Goes On”) continues the saga more than a year later in the shadow of the chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Now, as the Granville family struggles with the ramifications of life during the pandemic, their lives fray in unexpected and heart-wrenching ways after Anna is raped by an intruder at her apartment downtown.


Part IV (“World War III”) begins four days after Putin rolls into Ukraine, and the Granvilles are under a catastrophic siege of their own when Petey and Anna come for dinner after being estranged from Petey's parents for six-months. Petey has transferred to Iona for his junior year and moved in with Anna, all to Maggie’s chagrin. Although the evening is about trying to make peace, Petey is there on his own mission, and with many attempts at reconciliation, things go awry. The play makes clear that life under COVID can be deadly in more ways than one.


Each of the four parts can be presented individually, but ideally Part I and II would be presented as an evening of theatre, and Part III and IV presented on a consecutive night, forming a “quadrilogy.” The play is suited for presentation both on stage and on a digital platform in the world of Zoom.

Production History



  1. Ken Davenport’s TheaterMakers Studio (Zoom reading, Parts I and II, 2020)
    1. Directed Nick Corley
    2. Cast Emily Skinner, Stephen Bogardus, Ben Fankhauser, Yarissa Tiara Millan
  2. The reading was a benefit for Feeding Westchester, and over $10,000 was raised.
  4. Nominated as Best Play of the Year and Nick Corley was nominated as Best Director of the Year by Ken Davenport’s TheaterMakers Studio.
  6. The Pandemic Players of The Schoolhouse Theater, North Salem, NY (Zoom  reading, Parts I and II, 2021)
    1. Directed Bram Lewis, Artistic Director of The Schoolhouse Theater
    2. Cast Ginger Grace, Mark Hofmaier, Webb Bankemper, and Yarissa Tiara Millan.
  8. Zoom-ready script available on The New Play Exchange (NPX).


Audience Quotes

Theatermakers Studio Reading (2020)



“One of my favorite evenings during Covid. A well written and moving theatre experience

with fabulous acting. It reminds me how much I miss life before Covid.”

Susan Cohen


“A tour de force.”

Doug Rosenthal


“It hits home for all of us, of course. The first act intensity was riveting to the point where my face was twitching. Congratulations to entire cast, the director and Joan. Excellent work.”

Mimi Turque


 “It is excellent. So real. Maggie is awesome.”

 Ferne Goldberg


“I loved your play!!!!! The writing was so well done and the actors were really terrific. It totally held my interest throughout, and I’ll admit I shed more than a few tears...I’m always a sucker for plays, books etc. set in the present day with highly identifiable characters and settings, so you had me… it was a marvelous “escape” from my non-stop MSNBC watching and made me realize how much I enjoy a good play - and a good one it was.”

Ginny Waldman


“What a delightful experience this evening was. Your play was so much more engaging than I ever expected of a reading.  I think this was because the actors were superb and the dialogue was realistic, spirited and nuanced.  I truly felt as if it were on stage…so glad that I had the opportunity to be in the audience.”

Ann Rose Simon


“Your characters have depth and authenticity, your plots draw us in,

and the dialogue is genuine and at times very funny. The actors were terrific.”

Roy Regozin


“I loved watching your play…This one should make Broadway!”

Mary Loughran


“I really enjoyed the play and liked that different characters had different responses to Covid…

so very timely and well done.”

Les Hausrath


“This one certainly hit all the issues we are struggling with. And the family dynamic was perfect....

the worrying mom (me) and the optimistic husband (mine). I like to think of worriers as realists!”

Diane Levy


“Excellent! Really great presentations of all the different viewpoints. Fabulous dialogue.”

Sheila Goldklang


“I must say that by the end of Act II was so moved that I wept a bit.”

Faye Menken Schneier


“This was terrific-a great dramatic exploration and historical record.”

C. Yanow


“I loved that the characters don’t know what is going to happen.”

Linda Ellis


“Really great acting!  I was on edge waiting to hear what was going to happen next.

Kudos to you, Joan, and many thanks to you and everyone who donated to Feeding Westchester!”

Nicoal Crawford


“Felt like I was back when my girls were 19!!”

Andrey Wax


“The play was great. It was like a thorough indulgence of the last 7 or 8 months since March. It was just so rich with all the nuance that’s been going through everybody’s head from the localist, local level to the big national and international issues, all in one. Nice little theory of everything. It was really something. I watched and watched and when it was over, it was really grueling and exhausting, but rich.”

Steve Sorkin


“In comparing Zoom to live theatre, very effective. I felt like I was in the room!”

Nancy Whitfield

Audience Quotes

The Schoolhouse Theater Reading (2021)



“I have never been so totally immersed in a play.

It is the ultimate example of what theatre should be.”

Jensina Olson


“The writing is visceral and authentic – it shows the effect of the past 12 months

in which everyday life has been fraught with drama and foreboding.”

Charles Wright


“Marvelous writing... fabulous cast... great dramatic tension.

This will be a historical play.”

Carol-Lee Kantor


 “Poignant Play: so well-crafted and riveting! We are living it, and it is US.”

 Thea Schiller


“Powerfully captures the angst, the constant changes and unknown all the way through.  Exquisite down to the very end.”

Rebecca Hoodwin


“We can’t breathe!”

Allan Van Fleet and Ruth Goldberg


“What an amazing thing—channeling the drama and dynamics of this time.”

Emily White


“Great story. Great script. Great cast. Real. Real. Real.”

Matt Levine


“I loved and hated each character by turns, and saw a little of myself in each of them.”

Laura Corwin


“Such intelligent, passionate writing, terrific cast, touching, real and a beautiful experience.”

Elizabeth Diggs


“The emotional roller-coaster was brilliant.”

Herb Grosinger


“The language was just so perfect. As a writer, I wished I had written that.”

Emily Kingsley


“We enjoyed it thoroughly and are still talking about how deftly you captured a moment in time with such tantalizing ambiguity. There were so many passages where opposing characters were both right, although logically they couldn't be, and your forcing Maggie to draw lines, move the goalposts, and try to rationalize her choices was masterful. We also loved the humor, irony, great pace, and well-deserved digs at the then administration -- but above all, the play was remarkable because it so vividly evoked our exact feelings and uncertainties a year ago. That visceral reaction, combined with the benefit and burden of knowing how the year unfolded, made for a great theatrical experience.”

Patricia Lapham