Without Mercy

Without Mercy image

Without Mercy is a full-length, one-act (80 minute) drama. 2 w, 1 m, or 3 w.

Joanna is devastated when she learns that her daughter Mercy, who went missing six years ago, was murdered by a criminal currently in prison. After a stint in alcohol rehab, Joanna returns home to find that her surviving daughter, Bethany, has hired a legal advocate to help the killer get a plea bargain, escaping the death penalty. Joanna and Bethany clash over the plea deal, dredging up long-held resentments and grudges, while their advocate, Sam, attempts to appear neutral. But all is not as it seems, and the truth comes to light as the past collides with the present.

The play premiered February 24, 2017 at the Phoenix Theatre in San Francisco, produced by Off Broadway Theatre Company, directed by Richard Harder, with Sylvia Kratins, Niki Held, and Ian Walker, with David Skillman.

Without Mercy was developed at Arts Letters + Numbers residency in Averill Park, NY, near the SUNY Death Penalty Archive in Albany. It was further developed in Central Works’ Writers Workshop, Fall 2016. It was also workshopped at the Eleventh Annual Women’s Work Festival in St. John’s Newfoundland, March 2017.


“Gripping … Twists in the plot are jaw-dropping. In ‘Without Mercy’, Milton has written a suspenseful, heart-breaking, tightly-woven one-act in which, through her characters under Richard D. Harder’s astute direction, she raises important legal, ethical, and social questions in one’s own mind regarding life, murder, and death.” ~Gaetana Caldwell-Smith, Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

“Milton’s smart script continues to reveal layers of their characters … ‘Without Mercy’ is a thought-provoking look at the myriad ways people respond to tragedy.” ~Leslie Katz, San Francisco Examiner

“There are no right answers to the questions the women raise, and with Richard Harder’s excellent direction, the characters are allowed to trust one another enough to unpeel the multiple layers that separate their weeping hearts. It is quite moving, the conclusion both unexpected and heartrending. ~Wanda Sabir, SF Bay View

“The script has classical overtones. The actors don’t use physical masks but play as though they had trunkfuls. The performance is a competition among hubris-bearing mortals contributing to their own fatal and fateful undoing.” ~Jim Strope, San Francisco Salvo

“One of Milton’s great skills as a writer is the judicious parceling out of information. Her plays often begin in medias res, in the heat of a long-simmering exchange, and as dialogue unfurls, exposition creeps in subtly. All of a sudden, you know characters’ backstories without being able to trace exactly how.” ~Lily Janiak, SF Chronicle

Audience comments

“See this. Patricia Milton has given us a beautiful, challenging new work. Rich, deeply nuanced performances, especially by Sylvia Kratins. Quite engaging intellectually, and emotionally devastating to the point of catharsis. That’s good, you know: all the feelings get wrung out and you feel cleansed, ready to be filled again. It’s the REASON TO SEE LIVE THEATRE. Especially if you are a parent–don’t miss this!” ~ Valerie F. on Facebook

“A really intense and compelling show I am still thinking about. A fascinating debate that puts a human face on justice vs revenge on top of a very complicated mother/daughter relationship.”  ~ Morgan L. on Facebook

“Beautifully written and stellar performances of very emotional material. Bravo to the actors and to Patricia Milton.” ~ Susan S. on Facebook


Read the play on the New Play Exchange. (pdf)

Listen to a KPFA radio interview with Jovelyn Richards, Richard Harder, and me.