Now published through Dramatic Publishing!
Marie and daughter Rose Marie are left adrift after their husband/father, Michael, passes away. But it's how he leaves that alters the lives of the family forever.

Arnie, Michael's boyfriend, yearns to heal those who've been hurt and unexpectedly discovers a family of his own.

Mirroring the erratic path of grief itself, A Complicated Hope flashes between the moments in time that changed them all. Their journeys explore the challenges of both finding a family of choice and letting yourself be found.
Marie - Female, 40s/50s, Black
Rose Marie - Female, Early 20s, Black
Arnie - Male, 40s/50s, white
Publication Anthology - 2023

Essential Theatre, GA -2022

SETC Southeastern Theatre Conference, NC -2022
Dramatists Guild Press Release
Northern Michigan University, MI -2021
“What if the person who understands your grief the most is somebody you don't even want to be in the same room with? John tackles this question with moving humor and truth. Just lovely.”
(Donna Hoke)
“This is a moving play about grief, loss, and forgiveness. It’s efficiently and beautifully written, with richly drawn characters and an intricate, non-linear structure that could easily have become clumsy without Mabey’s light touch and careful plotting.”
(David Beardsley)
“A Complicated Hope is a delightful exploration of characters facing a complicated situation and dealing with the loss of a mutual loved one. The characters are well thought out and delicately developed by John Mabey. While the subject matter could have been heavy handed, the playwright brings a sensitive touch to a difficult situation. A wonderful play!”
(Karen Ruetz)
“Just finished reading this wonderful play and it's taking me a moment to organize my thoughts on it. It is truly a beautiful play. So rich in thought, in character. Complicated issues dealt in complicated ways yet with such simplicity, so direct. The final two scenes, in particular, quite simply sing. The back and forth in time works beautifully and the three characters are deep and rich and would be a welcome surprise for the actors fortunate enough to play them. Overall, just a wonderful play by John Mabey.”
(Selma Hazouri)
“A beautifully rendered play about grief, loss, love and family told with tenderness, poignancy and authenticity. It deals with the messy bits of being human creating three memorable characters that you're happy to have spent time with. Highly recommended.”
(Colette Cullen)
“A beautifully structured, spare composition on grief and love that feels raw and authentic and sweet. The audience makes specific connections through the play through Mabey's use of language and objects as touch points to solder together specific moments through time so that they resonate all the more poignantly. There is room here for the audience. It's a very generous gift.”
(Emma Goldman-Sherman)
“A Complicated Hope is instantly gut wrenching. A grieving woman, Marie, is confined to a private room in a funeral home with her deceased ex-husband's partner, Arnie - a brilliantly tense and delicate scene which kicks off a series of powerfully evocative memory vignettes. Mabey's ability to authentically capture the intimate and intricate nature of human relationships is absolutely stunning. This play is a thoughtfully crafted story of three people flung together by a man who lost a lifelong struggle with himself. I should also note that Mabey's masterful writing really catches fire in scene eight. Sublime. Highly recommend!”
(Craig Houk)
“A tenderly-written and well-observed play that examines the human irregularities of grief, loneliness, family, and longing for connection. Mabey uses the scattered chronology well--the shifts in time give us interesting reveals and ramp up the tension, even though the story isn't technically moving forward. The three central characters are all nuanced and sympathetic, and the unconventional relationships between them feel plausible and driven by potent needs for one another. The eye towards their intersectional identities is astute. The final scene is a beautiful, poignant punctuation mark on the play.”
(Nick Malakhow)
“Brought together by the death of a loved-one, the lives of three unique yet relatable characters become unexpectedly and inextricably intertwined. Mabey’s exploration of lost love and found family unfolds in a nonlinear fashion, raising questions and providing answers in surprising and satisfying ways. From the provocative opening scene to the poetic final moment, A Complicated Hope offers characters and revelations that are both perfectly natural and poignantly unpredictable.”
(Ken Preuss)

“This play has been on my list for a while, and I'm so glad I finally reached it. What a beautiful story of loss and love and conflicting emotions entwined together. There were so many wonderful, wise one liners that by the end I wished I had been jotting them down to remember them all. Deceptively simple, this play will leave you with a lot to think about. Just fantastic.”
(Lisa Dellagiarino Feriend)

“Stories of loss can be complicated and difficult to write but John Mabey shows extraordinary skill here as he guides his audience through the heartbreaking events of this family's life as they experience loss, secrecy, emotional change and relationship complexity. It’s a beautifully written piece that is sure to have any audience feeling with/for the characters and will have an audience feeling privileged they were able to see this piece of the characters lives. It doesn't surprise me that it’s had such a prominent production history."
(Rachel Feeny-Williams)

“A razor sharp play about loss which refuses to grieve. Instead it celebrates the truth that 'caring' and 'loving' overlap constantly and are integral parts of 'families' however they are imagined. The characters are warm and true and the flow of scenes is so finely crafted that the perceptive dialogue manages to cut and heal at the same time. A really fine piece.”
(Christine Foster)

“A powerful play that compellingly explores grief, loss, family, and identity. The three characters' journeys intersect across time in ways that are heart-wrenching and true. The dialogue sparkles with feeling and insight. I am hard pressed to convey the extent of my enthusiasm for this piece. The well-realized parts merge into a powerful, resonant, larger whole.”
(Paul Donnelly)

“The play tackles life’s biggest occasions (love, grief, loss, family). In Mabey’s skilled hands, we are gifted with a personal story that is everyone’s. We know these characters, we root for their journeys. We forgive foibles. We hope for the best. There is more than a complicated hope at play here. There is complicated love, a complicated family, and a sense of gratitude that with all the complications, we are the better for them.”
(Claudia Haas)

“This play's power lies in its compelling truths about the grieving process in loss and charts paths that lie in complication and honesty. Beautiful, sparkling, and poignant dialogue.”
(Alexa Rowe)

“I was compelled to read this play by the very skillful playwright John Mabey, given the amount of awards and productions it's rightfully received. John describes to us a tale of complicated hope as well as complicated grief and complicated emotions. This is truly an excellent, compelling and moving play, all that with just three, albeit complex, characters. Excellent.”
(Christopher Plumridge)

“JOHN MABEY is one of my favorite playwrights. In this wonderful play, we discover so much about the complexities of an interracial relationship, homophobia, guilt and hope, tension and love, and the coping mechanisms we use to deal with the death of a loved one. As I read “A Complicated Hope”, I felt the turmoil of the three characters, who had to face their innermost grief, lost love, and hope in their own way. This is an excellent play. There is so much to learn, feel, and enjoy! Please read and produce this play!”
(Jack Levine)

“This play is like a beautiful painting. "Sunrise on the water." There is so much depth to it, the more you look at it, the more you discover. And the more you learn about yourself. I can see exactly why this won so many awards. I can actually hear the words out loud in my head. Engaging, heartbreaking...and yet, as intended, with a ray of hope.”
(Jacquelyn Floyd-Priskorn)

“A lovely, moving piece painted with the delicate, deft hand of playwright John Mabey. "Glimmers of hope in the hogwash" captures this play beautifully--raw and real and yet lyrical. Understanding, compassionate. Mabey loves his characters: you will too.”
(Nora Louise Syran)

“I saw this beautiful play during its 2022 run at Essential Theatre. It's a moving experience, drawing us into an exquisitely twisting-turning-tangling cat's cradle of love and grief. John creates so many moments of complicated tension and tenderness between characters. The nonlinear structure conjures grief's associative, out-of-time collage of emotion and memory, and also finally provides the complicated hope the audience yearns for.”
(Matt Hoffman)
Kentwood Players, CA - 2022

Theatrical Outfit & Working Title Playwrights, GA - 2022

Southeastern Theatre Conference, TN - 2022

Northern Michigan University, MI - 2021

Essential Theatre, GA - 2022

Northern Michigan University, MI - 2022

The Left Hand Productions, CA, 2022
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University pictures courtesy of @fischergenau

Essential Theatre, Atlanta GA

[clockwise top left] Kimberly Ridgeway, Amarae Robinson, Adam Maslak
[clockwise top left] Kimberly Ridgeway, Amarae Robinson, Adam Maslak

Southeastern Theatre Conference

Back to Top