A New Play
By Emily Schwend
Directed by Adam Goldstein
At Steppenwolf Theatre as part of Next Up
Subtle lessons about acceptance of life’s setbacks plays truthful
The tension builds quite subtly as we see the life routine of the Deckhouses’ that finds Kate’s teaching schedule and Irwin’s retail store manager’s schedule offering the only difference in their lives.
The arrival of Amy and Randall tests not only the Deckhouses’ hospitality but brings back old memories as it tests the power and control that family secrets can yield once confronted. We see the long held bitterness Kate feels about Amy leaving her twenty years ago. We learn that Randall, fifteen years younger than Amy, is a nice guy despite him being an unfocused drifter. The secrets this couple keeps from one another threatens their marriage.
A subplot about Paulie (Joey deBettencourt), a student of Kate’s and an employee of Irwin’s adds another dimension to playwright Schwend’s underlying theme about how much of our dreams and desires are shaped by others for better or worse. Accepting what we can’t change or fix then deciding to move on with life is a challenge for Kate, Amy and Randall. The need for stability versus the quest to live life freely is presented in a most truthful manner.
Janet Ulrich Brooks and Nicole Wiesner have a dynamic that works while Jeff Trainor and Keith Kupferer have a “nice guy'” persona that works. Joey deBettencourt is empathetic as the teen content with suffering bullying as he plods through high school.
This show, steeped in realism, is an honest attempt to dramatize the inter angst many folks feel about life as they allow others to shape their lives. The acting and direction are filled with subtle moments of truth that amount to a powerful life statement. This is a quiet gem. Sarah JHP Watkins set skillfully suggests a middle class house.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: June 10, 2012
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