"Immediate Family" (Goodman Theatre): Comedy, Combat, Compassion Explosion

"Immediate Family" (Goodman Theatre):  Comedy, Combat, Compassion Explosion

#136.  Family manages family.  Siblings grow up together knowing what buttons to push for a reaction.  As adults that knowledge helps us avoid unpleasant confrontation.  As kids, making each other cry is a game.  As grown ups, game playing allows us to sidestep emotional land mines.

Goodman Theatre, in association with About Face Theatre, present IMMEDIATE FAMILY.  Tony is getting married.  So, his siblings are coming home. It’s their childhood home but Evy is in charge. She is a narrow-minded, African American, “Christian.”  And everybody keeps secrets from her to avoid matriarchal judgment. But under one roof, it’s hard to hide a white boy in the closet with all the other skeletons.  IMMEDIATE FAMILY explodes with comedy, combat and compassion.

Playwright Paul Oakley Stovall pulls the dirty laundry out of the hamper and throws it around the room.  Stovall thoroughly engages the audience in sorting through the mess.   How did this get so soiled?  Does this go with that?  I’m completely captivated by this family’s drama and comedy.  The dialogue is natural.  Continual fragments of information piece together the full family portrait.  Under the direction of Phylicia Rashad, the talented cast come together in discord and harmony.  There is wildly, loud feuding and playing.  Those fast-paced banters are balanced with quiet, heart-tugging exchanges.  The contrast is powerful.  The final scene speaks volumes without saying a word.  Wow!

On the beautiful Huxtable-like set designed by John Iacovelli, the sibling rivalry is high stakes contention.  Bringing the comic relief, Kamal Angelo Bolden (Tony) and J. Nicole Brooks (Nina) are especially hilarious.  Bolden delights with a simplistic mischief.  And Brooks is terrific in her bootie-shaking, smack-talking outrageousness.

In this otherwise clever and tight family showcase, my only speed bump was the staging of a pivotal card game. From my seat position, Shanesia Davis (Evy) was primarily blocked. I could sense her angst but I couldn’t see it.  Davis dominates throughout the show with a commanding presence.  I just missed, literally and figuratively, the visual transformation in this particular scenario.

IMMEDIATE FAMILY is brothers-sisters smack down reunion.  It’ll remind you of what you hate and love about your own siblings.

Running Time:  Ninety minutes with no intermission

At Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn

Written by Paul Oakley Stovall

Directed by Phylicia Rashad

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays at 7:30pm

Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm

Sundays at 2pm and 7:30pm

Thru August 5th

Buy Tickets at www.goodmantheatre.org

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