Directed by Robin Witt
Produced by Griffin Theatre Company
At Raven Theatre, Chicago
Power production of a fine Scottish drama awaits
Griffin Theatre Company has mounted a stunningly powerful slice-of-life kitchen sink drama that vividly depicts the horrors of poverty-stricken Scottish working class folks in Depression Era Glasgow. Ena Lamont Stewart was so upset after seeing an upper class comedy of manners (Oscar Wilde or Noel Coward?) at a local theatre that she penned a realistic drama about the poor folks of Glasgow. The result is the seminal work of the UK that is considered a British classic contemporary play. The Griffin Theatre’s production is a Chicago premiere that is a flawless production that continues the high standards of Griffin Theatre Company. The shop-worn flat is dirty and messy from too much living (terrific set design by Courtney O’Neill).
The Morrison clan lives in a cold water tiny flat in the East End of Glasgow in the 1930’s. Maggie (Lori Myers in a tour de force performance) is the care-worn burned-out matriarch who finds herself caring for her five children including two “wee-uns,” a teenaged boy Ernie (Michael Saguto), an adult daughter Jenny (Ellie Reed) and her oldest married son Alec (Curtis Jackson) plus Granny Morrison (Maggie Cain). Maggie is the glue that hold things together as the clan struggles to survive in the tiny flat with limited funds since John Morrison (Scot West) is out of work and on the dole. Maggie does all the housework, cooks the meager meals and she cleans for others in order to keep the family going. She gets little support from her husband-himself a proud man who thinks (like his fellow husband of the time) that a man only needs to work or search for work. It is the wife’s job to do all else for the family. John is loving but a man of his times. Maggie’s sister Lily (Katherine Banks), herself not married, give moral and substantive support to Maggie.
This slice-of-life drama finds the neighboring woman Mrs. Bone (Christina Gorman), Mrs. Harris (Ashley Neal), and Mrs Wilson (Roxannie Saylor) visiting, supporting and comforting Maggie as each covet the companionship of each other. This self-help network of woman anchor each others family. We witness the burden of caring for Granny as well as the coming of age urges from the now young woman, daughter Jenny who is determined to leave the squalor and strike out on her own. Maggie also has to deal with her mamma’s boy son, Alec who is too weak a personality to cope with his demanding young wife Isa (Amanda Powell). John is tough on his older “wee-uns,” especially his daughter Jenny and his whiny son Alec.
We try to understand John but our hearts go out to Maggie as she dedicates herself to her family. The effects of poverty render their hopelessness and chilling scares on each family member. Using an authentic working class Scottish accent by all the players (fine dialect coaching by Adam Goldstein) that was enunciated well enough to be easily understood, the cast marvelously dove into their characters with loads of heart. Humor, truth and humanity abound in this marvelous drama.
Told in three acts, Men Should Weep, offers hope for a better life for all when Jenny tries to reconcile things with her family. These heartfelt scenes do, indeed, make us weep. Once we care about the Morrisons, we quietly cheer for them to raise above their circumstances in hope for a better life. Playwright Stewart has written a wonderful play in the tradition of Angela’s Ashes, Juno and the Paycock and Awake and Sing! Her Men Should Weep needs to be on that list.
The entire cast was terrific, especially Lori Myers who gave one of the finest, heartfelt and emotional performances of the year. Scot West, Amanda Powell and Curtis Jackson were also notable with their performances. Men Should Weep is a major work that demands to be seen! it is one of the best shows of 2014 – don’t miss it. It’ll reach you deeply.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: July 17, 2014
At Raven Theatre, 6157 N.lark, Chicago, IL, call 866-811-4111, www.griffintheatre.com, tickets $35, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, also a matinee on Saturday, August 9 at 2:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 45 minutes with 2 ten minute intermissions, through August 10, 2014