By Evan Linder
Directed by Andrew Hobgood
Produced by Hatmaker Theatrical Productions
With The New Colony
At The Apartment Lounge, Chicago
The pin-striped men of morning
Are coming for to dance
With pure Egyptian Cotton
The kids don’t stand a chance
Fraternal culture is a subject of great fantasy and revilement. Pretty much every member of Congress, every power player in government, Wall Street, and K Street was a member of one of these sacred orders. It’s no exaggeration to say that if one joins the right fraternity, one’s chances of success go way up. But at what cost? Frat boys, across orders, schools, and geography almost all end up polo-wearing, baseball hat-sporting, shitty beer-drinking douchebags. They’re the alpha males that girls like to attach themselves to for popularity, money and power until they realize that the boy they’ve chosen is sleeping with seven other girls, as well. Fraternities’ initiation practices are defamed as cruel, brutal, and unusual hazing. And in the South, they take on an even greater significance than in the North. There will always be the saying, “The best friends money can buy.” And of course that’s true – but money will always buy friends. So will fame. So will power and influence and any number of things. No one can deny that there are aspects of frat culture that are completely fucked up. But no one can deny that there is an upside, there is daylight, there is something that sustains these places, and it’s more than money and booze and sex – though that irrefutably plays a part.
And you know, Evan Linder’s Frat seems to give these places a pretty fair shake. It shows why they’re appealing – the friends, the free booze, the easy tail; but also the real sense of brotherhood and togetherness these people are seeking. And it also shows how cliquey, fractious, and frivolous these places can be, and how damaging, both to the spirit and to the soul. They are like the public education system: the goal is for everyone to come out the same. We like them as homogenized as possible.
The story focuses on four freshman pledging the Theta Pi Psi fraternity and the council members in charge of the rushing process. Ross, Fleet, Kevin and Todd (Joel Kim Booster, Will Cavedo, Quinn White and Patriac Coakley, respectively) all decide to pledge for different reasons: Ross and Fleet were outsiders in high school, and want to find a place to be accepted; Kevin is legacy – his father is a member (“is” because, like the Marines, do you ever stop being a member of a fraternity?); and Todd goes in to meet a few people, have a good time, and have a laugh at Greek Life. He doesn’t take the Greek system seriously – quite the contrary, he is one of its detractors, as is his girlfriend since sophomore year of high school, Katie (Caitlin Chuckta). And yet he somehow gets wiled into actually pledging the fraternity. Indeed, unwittingly, he becomes seduced by, not just the culture, but the people who play prominent roles in it. This causes tensions with Katie, but a strong bond is formed between the four young pledges.
There are figures who play typical roles: the President, the hot girlfriend, the redneck, the businessman, the girl who’s slept with almost every brother, the closet homosexual, the ugly, funny girl (who is of course Jewish). And they’re all pretty true to life; they’re all people we’ve met ourselves though our various collegiate lives. Indeed, Amy (Tara Jayne Sisson), the D.U.G. (Designated Ugly Girl) reminded me uncannily of a girl I knew in college who has since moved to New York to try her hand at stand-up comedy.
So the characters are true-to-life, and so is the story. It’s fun, engaging, and, even if you aren’t a proponent of Greek Life, it draws you in. The acting is generally spot-on (though there is an occasional awkwardly-delivered line, or a moment that just feels act-y), and the sets, props and costumes are all basically perfect. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were at a frat party – or maybe Wrigleyville. It’s surprisingly fun and, for a certain demographic, definitely worth a look-see.
Reviewed on 9.24.11