The amusing antics of 20-somethings in big cities has become entertainment fodder since the induction of hit shows like Broad City and Girls to cable television, and though poet Aziza Barnes’ first foray into playwriting could easily be compared to either, her work stands on its own. To begin with, her millennial female friends navigating New York are not exclusively (or almost exclusively) white--in fact, it’s the drunken white girl who is the odd-woman-out in this script chock full of hilarious one-liners. This, in itself, is noteworthy. In an industry rampant with white experiences, Barnes’ offers a heartwarming and funny response to the narratives we see everyday.
But her play is much more than reverberation. Though there are a few moments that could use tweaking (such as a lengthy, slow motion scene that momentarily erases the wonderful sense of reality the play otherwise creates), there is a poignancy that underlies the uproarious laughs and lovable antics of these women.
In the main through line of our arguable heroine (the show’s standout performer Norah Carroll), a suspicious genital mole sends her spiraling into a sexual quest. Though this understandably generates a lot of laughs, her search for feeling, for life, seems emblematic of a deeper meaning; that scary sense in your early 20's of trying to find your place. And this trepidation, I would argue, is one that’s become more universal and thus, more ripe for discussion, in a difficult 2017 that’s left so many have been scrounging for hope.
Like its characters, the play is imperfect. But it, and they, are also funny, smart, witty, and touching. Could we ask for a better way to ring in the new year?
Review by Emily Schmidt
BLKS continues at Steppenwolf Theatre through January 28th, 2018. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreinChicago's Review Round-Up.