Barber Shop Show preview: Goodman's "Fish Men" mixes racism, genocide, class, poverty and chess

Barber Shop Show preview: Goodman's "Fish Men" mixes racism, genocide, class, poverty and chess

On a blistering hot day in New York City’s Washington Square Park, a Native American, a former convict, a down-and-out immigrant, a genocide survivor and a proctologist come together to play some chess. It sounds like the opener of a bad joke, but "Fish Men", the play by Candido Tirado now at the Goodman Theatre, weaves these disparate characters together into a fast-paced play.

Tirado and Fish Men director Edward Torres will be on the Barber Shop Show on Vocalo 89.5 FM Friday at 12pm, discussing the play, the social demons it brings up, and what they hopes the audience takes away from the story of chess hustlers who make money by winning games against unsuspecting challengers, and their “fish,” the prey often taken for the contents of their wallet.

Leave us comments or queries for Tirado under this article, on our Facebook page or tweet us @chicagoreporter. You can also call in during the show at (888) 635-1112.

The play is rich with compelling standoffs and juxtapositions: one contrasts the experience of a Holocaust survivor at peace with his experiences in a genocide known around the world, with that of the tormented survivor of a lesser-known 1982 massacre in Guatemala.

Another is between a chess hustler and a landlord that the hustler accuses of moralizing while running his own hustle: kicking low-income tenants out of his building and rehabbing it for higher paying customers.

And for the chess lovers in the crowd, folklore about the game is sprinkled throughout.

Teatro Vista, the company presenting the performance, aims to share and celebrate “the riches of Latino culture with Chicago theater audiences and beyond.”

And true to its mission, this play humanizes the issues of loss, revenge, camaraderie and ego. Walking down the street in Chicago, you’ve probably bumped shoulders with a stranger carrying stories as unique and heartbreaking as those in Fish Men. This story may make you more conscious of your place on the chess board.

© Community Renewal Society 2012

Photo credit: Goodman Theatre

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