By Rebecca Gilman
Directed by Wendy C. Goldberg
At the Goodman’s Owen Theatre
Gilman’s new play deftly discusses how our life choices define our happiness
The Crowd You’re In With by Rebecca Gilman, now in its Chicago premiere at the Goodman’s Owen Theatre, is a funny, yet deep drama concerning six couples’ debating their life choices– to have children or not.
Set in a Lakeview Chicago neighborhood in the backyard of a two-flat (terrific realistic set by Kevin Depinet) on July 4, 2007, we find two 30something married couples and their older landlord couple having a barbecue. They are intelligent, liberal yups engaging in light banter that turns into a heated debate about how are life choices in times of transition shape out entire lives. Dan (Kiff Vander Heuvel)–a music critic for the Tribune and his expecting wife, Windsong (Stephanie Childers) are doting over their soon-to-be born child. Dan exchanges zingers first with Jasper (Coburn Goss) then with Tom (Rob Riley) and Karen’ (Linda Gehringer) and Jasper’s landlord who are a childless older married couple.
Tension is apparent from the start between Jasper and Malinda (Janelle Snow)–the couple trying to have their first child. Melinda copies Windson’s every move. Jasper, ever the over-analyzer, questions if he wants a child at this time in his life. Playwright Gilman has the three couples debate all sides of the pros and cons of starting a family. She notes that having a child sure does hurt an individual’s independence. The question of whether or not a child can bring enough joy and happiness to offset the tremendous responsibility is thoroughly debated. Tom and Karen aptly argue that one can achieve happiness and fulfillment without children. With generous use of humor, Crowd unfolds as a most lively and intelligent drama without proselyting.
Jasper struggles with doubt that he wants to be trapped into raising a child. Karen and Tom are surely happy and comfortable with their early life decision not to have children. When Dwight (Jasper and Dan’s buddy)–played effectively by Sean Cooper–describes waiting on a family with small children at his restaurant–we laugh as see Jasper wince.
We empathize with Gilman’s three couples and we quickly are pulled into the show’s debate. We all know folks like these six. I relate most to Tom and Karen since I’ve never desired to raise children. The underlying message here implies that children are not always the best choice for personal fulfillment.
Coburn Coss, Linda Gehringer and Sean Cooper gave particularly strong performances. The Crowd You’re In With is an engrossing 85 minute one-act that will stimulate debate on your way home about life choices. Every young couple thinking about having children should see this play.
At the Goodman’s Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL, call 312-443-3800, www.goodmantheatre.org, Tuesdays thru Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm, sundays at 2 & 7:30 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission, through June 21, 2009