Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Class Dismissed

By Jeffrey Sweet

Directed by Dennis Zacek

At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater

New Jeffrey Sweet play is peopled by sharply-drawn characters

Class Dismissed
Class Dismissed

Victory Gardens Theater, the home of world premiers plays, debuts ensemble playwright Jeffrey Sweet’s new play, Class Dismissed. It is a somewhat nostalgic look back at the 1960’s and the effects that decisions made during that time of rebellion have on the lives of participants growing up in that tumultuous time. Class Dismissed is funny, well acted and accurate.

It is 1967 and Pete ( Steve Key) and Roy (Aaron Roman Weiner), under the influence of left-wing professor Jackson (Tim Grimm) decide that there is more to the anti-Establishment rebellion that sex, drugs and funky dress. They decide to try and stop the war effort by ripping up railroad tracks leading from a war plant. There lame attempt only get them arrested. Roy, a closet rich boy, is exposed when the family lawyer arrives to represent them. Meg (Jennifer Avery) is Pete’s girl, herself a refugee from Appalachia determined to never return to poverty. College is her way out.

The arrest has devastating life-changing effects on this group. Jackson get fired; Pete loses his scholarship and Rob contemplates quieting college. Meg and Wendy (Ann Joseph) loses her boyfriend KIA in Viet Nam. All retreat to communal living in Vermont in one of Roy’s family homes. Sweet depicts what happens when a group discovers that life can get in the way of the most noble ideals. We see how family pressure and daily necessities can trump idealism. Pete and the professor retreat into research and writing revisionist history. Roy and Meg commute to Boston to finish college. Wendy and Pete harvest apples into cider.

Class Dismissed
Class Dismissed

Class Dismissed is a coming of age comedy with heart and excellently developed characters. Sweet uses direct audience contact to establish his flashback story. After establishing their community, Class Dismissed jumps to 1983 that finds Rob and Meg married raising Lisa (Jessica London-Shields)—Pete and Meg’s child. Lisa, now a curious teen, visits Wendy and Pete (now an item) at the Vermont farm house. Lisa want to know the what, how and why’s of the dynamic that she was born into. Marc Grapey, in an assortment of roles, offers fine, fresh, lively comic turns.

These scenes are funny and telling. Jeffrey Sweet’s world premiere aptly captures what happened to the rebellious hippies of the 60’s where some sold out to the Establishment and some kept their idealism and unique life style. We see how lives are shaped by early decisions we make. War, sexual freedom (and the pill) together with new radical ideas have profoundly influenced a generation. If your parents were hippies, Class Dismissed can give you clues to what happened to them. I’m a product of that era but I was never radical enough to embrace these folk’s lifestyle. It took me many more years to find my personal agenda. I did know folks who could be any of Sweet’s characters.


Tom Williams

At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL call 773-871-3000, Tickets $20 – $48, Tuesdays thru Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, Running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission.

[mappress address=”2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL” ]

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