The title of Ellen Farley’s world premiere Support Group for Men at Goodman Theatre is undeniably evocative. Like Steppenwolf’s Straight White Men in 2017, the name alone alludes to the possible derision of that particular sex. Yet instead of relying on laughs from a mocking of masculinity, Farley’s much more accepting play finds humor in the disparities, whether political or social, among its group of men, creating a humorous, heartfelt, and warm-hearted 90 minutes.
As the 2016 election reminded us, outside of our liberal Chicago bubble are small towns, differing ideas, and a plethora of mason jars filled with various canned goods. Such is the setting of Steppenwolf’s latest, The Roommate, as a progressive New Yorker moves in with an Iowan divorcee shocked by the introduction of her vegan, pot-smoking, queer roommate. An amusing series of antics ensue as this odd couple learns to live together, and while Jen Silverman’s play relies on a few too many stereotypes in its latter half to make the conclusion resonate emotionally, the dynamic acting duo of Ora Jones and Sandra Marquez succeed in making the play enjoyable if not entirely memorable.
Steppenwolf's latest production follows in the footsteps of many of theirs in that the audience is left completely polarized. The original actors (Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed) and director (Amy Morton) have reunited from the 2015 production of Rajiv Joseph's Off-Broadway play which went on to win the Obie Award for Best New American Play. If you can handle bouncing back and forth between gut-wrenching violence and buddy-comedy humor, Guards at the Taj may be the perfect fit for you.
Discussions on race and gender can often become complicated so quickly that they run the risk of becoming non-starters; conversations that can quickly morph into ignorant shouting matches or become neutered by easy platitudes. The issues of these conversations are often inadvertently carried over into works of art that attempt to create them. It can be difficult to portray these complexities in a work of art when art itself is a subset of the discussion at hand. Don’t Smoke In Bed, however, approaches these topics in such a fresh and uncompromising manner that allows it to gain enough traction to kickstart and challenge your perspectives on gender and race. Through incredibly sharp writing, expertly paced character building, and powerful performances, Chimera Ensemble’s production is well worth your time.
Tab Show is powerful. Lucky plush has created an accessible performance that gives you an inside look into dance, only to ask the audience about their relationship with art in the abstract. The technical proficiency of the dancers, combined with impactful themes and powerful light and sound make Tab Show a solid production, albeit somewhat heavy handed in delivery. However, you will ultimately leave the show with complex questions and intrigued with the production’s overall message.
In the past few years, Victory Gardens’ productions have, in my mind, become synonymous with consistency. Whenever I attend a show there, I go in confident that whatever I will see is bound to be good--their company produces shows with persistently great sets, talented actors, interesting scripts, etc. While their latest foray, playwright Boo Killebrew’s Lettie, did not disappoint, it also failed to dazzle. The well-written play succeeds in its attempts to present an array of characters which we can sympathize with, even as they come from extremely different points of views, but the somewhat choppy narrative and its focus on white woman (when rates of incarcerated women of color are much higher) diminished the play’s overall effect.
In 2017, a Colorado baker found himself in front of the US Supreme Court after refusing to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. Supporters and opponents of the couple’s lawsuit took to their various media platforms, propelling the suit into a viral national dilemma characterized by polarized opinions and vicious rhetoric, on both sides. It is these dialogues of divide, in an increasingly divided nation, that serves as the setting and theme of Bekah Brunstetter’s The Cake--a delectable creation that gets to the ooey gooey center of our nation’s problems, even if its frosting is a little too sweet.
Standing tall in v formation, the soldier storytellers of Letters Home introduce themselves with a terse, in-medias-res quote from their respective monologue. The audience’s attention darts around the black box as the company of GIs offer flashes of the incredible lives detailed in their letters. It is a clever way to introduce the breadth of emotions contained within this show: some sound funny, some sound serious, and some sound absolutely harrowing. Letters Home is all of the above. While the production is not without some missed opportunities, Letters Home is a comprehensive look into the triumphs, costs, and humanity behind armed conflict.
Like Saturday Night Live, audiences know they can turn to The Second City for a response to what is happening in the world around them. Gaslight District, the 42nd revue from The Second City e.t.c., attempts to take on almost everything in the news from the past year or so. Thanks to the talented ensemble, the results are uproarious
I was told it would be best to go into Women Laughing Alone with Salad without reading too much into it. I am all for surprises, especially going into an institution such as Theater Wit where I am so often pleased with what I see - but it may have been detrimental in this case. I was expecting an unpredictable feminist comedy, and I'm still not exactly sure how to describe what I saw.