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Middle-aged Playwright Re-reads His Reviews and Despairs 

Presented in reverse chronological order.


Callous Cad (HERE Arts Center)

"Romantic and sexual trauma pervade “Cheerful Insanity: Chao and Katzberg in Repertory,” two plays of contrasting sensibilities at the Here Arts Center. Each barely an hour and running on different dates, they are both confessional in nature and intriguing. The more linear is Tom X. Chao’s droll, ruminative and sometimes arch “Callous Cad.” Mr. Chao, playing himself, is agonizing over an affair.... Offering enlightenment is a Magical Being (the delightful Charlotte Pines of “Play Dead” as the spirit of love) .... Ms. Pines’s irrepressible sprite is an enchanting foil to Mr. Chao’s petulant and tearful neurotic."

The New York Times [read online here]

The Peculiar Utterance of the Day: Live on Stage!

"Chao the writer has one of the most deliciously off-kilter senses of humor in modern theatre."


Can’t Get Started (Tom X. Chao production)

"It's charged, smart stuff. . . . [Chao's] self-depreciating revelations about his own inequities and insecurities are hilarious. . . . It's very dry, coy and funny stuff. . . . The parallels between leaving yourself on the page as a writer and truly opening yourself up to another person are sharply drawn in this darkly comic play. . . . If you're looking for an anti-Fringe play, you've found it."

Edmonton Sun (5 Suns out of 5 rating, also "Pick of the Fringe")


"Can't Get Started, [Chao's] clever exploration of the hapless nerd's place in the sexual universe, is THE date play of the 2006 Fringe. Men will recognize something primal and honest here, beginning with the absolute wonder that is Tamara Hamilton. . . . Tom X. Chao is perfect as Tom X. Chao. As a Fringe play, Can't Get Started is well aware of itself as a Fringe play. . . .  What follows is uneven, juvenile, geeky, stupid, smart and a veritable hoot."

Edmonton Journal (4 stars out of 5 rating)

Can’t Get Started (Black Sheep Theatre production)

"It must be said that New York writer Tom X. Chao is a magnificently sick man." 

Planet S (Saskatoon)


"Playwright Tom X. Chao's little gem is a definite sleeper hit."

Toronto Sun


"A personal story of heartbreak from playwright Tom X. Chao. . . . His brainy banter . . . is entertaining . . . including a hilarious puppet show between geometric shapes which has 'no allegorical content'."

Eye Weekly (Toronto)


"New York playwright Tom X. Chao certainly deserves a lot of respect just for finding a new take on the “smart, misunderstood, antisocial guy wonders why girls don’t like him” premise. . . . It’s self-referential in a surprisingly funny way. . . . It’s very clever, thought-provoking, at points very funny. . . .  If you’re like me, and you like your Fringe shows extra-fringey, you’ll probably thoroughly enjoy Can’t Get Started."

–CBC Manitoba (previewed in Ottawa)

Freak Out Under the Apple Tree: (Some of) The Best of Tom X. Chao

“Chao is a party pooper of the first order, and his humor stands sentinel on the wall of dispassionate observation. . . .  He is a talent worth following, a comedian whose unique delivery sharply jabs the ridiculous and mundane.”



"Chao's a funny, sarcastic, dry urban hipster."



"[Chao] offers up a surreal, sophisticated, but decidedly dyspeptic kind of humour here.  Imagine Monty Python after an especially bitter divorce. . . ."

Winnipeg Free Press [Read online here]


"Chao is a funny man. . . .  Chao’s drollness and dark, hip sketches are smart and subversive . . . "

Uptown (Winnipeg)

“The sketches have a bizarre sensibility that you might find in a funny graphic novel. . . . Comedy fans should certainly give it a try.”

–CBC Manitoba


“Chao delivers his rhythmic rants in a gravelly, frustrated deadpan, a mixture of Tom Waits and Steven Wright. . . . His is the kind of anti-comedy that will make certain members of the audience laugh uproariously. My favourite of the scenes was Lunch in Los Angeles, which featured a depressed police psychic and his assistant Ms. Torney-Punta. How can you not like a guy who names his characters like that?”

National Post (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

How to Invoke Pan (The Hell Festival, Brick Theater)

Tom X. Chao is "a dryly funny downtown comedian."

The New York Times [Read online here.]


"My favorite . . . was certainly How to Invoke Pan, starring Tom X. Chao. . . . His delivery of the mundane is alive with timing . . . a gold value that alone outweighs the $10 fee at the door. . . . I found tremendous adventure in this piece . . . . With dead-pan flatness, Chao’s narration brilliantly serves up the items we would need to bring Pan into our lives. . . . You will laugh up a storm . . ."

–Matthew Trumbull, (2nd review)


"How to Invoke Pan was the jewel. . . . The text, by Chao and Craig Heimbichner, is clever, but the star is Chao’s deadpan hipster delivery. He has a gorgeous way of saying a line, then patiently staring into the distance while waiting for the audience to catch up to the joke."

–David Johnston, (1st review)


"Gothamist is especially looking forward to seeing Tom X. Chao, performance-artist and bladder-taunting comic, who had a much-deserved success at FringeNYC last year with his original play Cats Can See the Devil.”

–The Gothamist, "Go To Hell"
[Read online here.]

" . . . I grabbed the L train . . . to The Brick to catch the Friday evening selection at the Hell Festival. Tom X. Chao's How to Invoke Pan with Garrison Keiloresque [sic] dryness and intensity, and humor . . . "

Mr. Hell's Kitchen

Cats Can See The Devil

“Chao's plays transcend self-pity. . . . [H]e is a wickedly funny guy.”



“Chao’s writing and his stage persona . . . are both, thank God, awfully damn funny. . . . The show span[s] great comedic heights.”

–Jeff Lewonczyk,


"Chao is, perhaps above all else, a supremely funny writer.  His is a far-ranging, esoteric wit . . . "

–Martin Denton, editor, Plays and Playwrights 2004


"Tom X. Chao is one of our favorite local playwrights because he's like a Chinese-American Dennis Potter, hopelessly morbid with a very sharp and very dry wit."

NY Press


Earlier quotes

"[NYFA Current has] got a "Rant and Rave" with Tom X. Chao which made me laugh. I haven't seen him perform in awhile and I forgot about his dry, sardonic wit."

– [Read online here.]


 "One of the smartest and most original anti-comedians around . . . Tom X. Chao is a talent worth checking out."

–Theatermania (review of Can’t Get Started


"Hilariously angsty writer-performer Tom X. Chao presents two works in repertory . . . Misery and self-loathing haven't been this funny since Dostoyevsky quit his stand-up routine."

Time Out New York (preview of 2xTXC)


Can't Get Started is "endearing . . . Chao performs several congenial characters . . . His self-obsession is balanced by the omnipresence of charming Eve Kerrigan, a shrewd alter ego . . ."

The Village Voice  


"I stumbled on [The Negative Energy Field] and felt like I'd finally found the fringe in the Fringe Festival. It was grim, weird, funny, and chillingly perceptive . . . turns St. Marks Place into Bleaker Street."



Tom Chao is "one of the funniest writers on contemporary male uncertainty that we've seen in a long time."

–Matthew Finch, WBAI (live interview)

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