Goodman Theatre presents the world premiere of TEDDY FERRARA. Gabe is a senior in college. He plans to make this year the best. He wants a boyfriend, a student presidency and a post-graduation job working on a Senate campaign. In between, he is trying to pull the LGBTQ community together for a party. Meanwhile, the college president is tipped off that the college newspaper is outing last year’s suicide victim. So, the prez convenes a LGBTQ task force to discuss the university’s culture. Gabe joins the diverse group to push his own agenda. Before they can unite with one queer voice, tragedy strikes. Is this simply a queer thing? Or an opportunity to twist something into a catalyst for change? What is really happening here? TEDDY FERRARA suffers from multiple personality disorder.
Playwright Christopher Shinn has layered messages about bullying in and out of the LGBTQ community. His content is promising. His context has some missteps. The story follows Gabe (played by Liam Benzvi) in his college struggles. At the play’s best and under the direction of Evan Cabnet, Gabe’s conflict takes us into a forum of debate led by the adept Patrick Clear (president) and his stalwart handler Janet Ulrich Brooks (provost). The hilarious calculated strategies by Clear and Brooks allows a passionate Kelli Simpkins (Ellen) to rant eloquently about LGBTQ concerns. These scenes anchor the show with meaningful takeaways.
This poignant subject matter is surrounded with relational hoopla. All the lust triangles bury the play’s essences under a lot of college dirt. The dialogue sounds like a cross between an “After School Special” and a porn. I can get past the excessive attention to hook-ups. It’s college. It’s the gay Harlequin-style romances that feel clunky. ‘I love him but I loved you a few weeks ago.’ ‘I loved him too but I also loved you a few weeks ago too. Could you love me now instead of him?’ These are not direct quotes but it paraphrases an exchange that illustrates the clunk factor. At moments, Shinn’s script and Cabnet's direction broaden our understanding of the political, media and peer influences that manipulate our perception and reaction. Powerful stuff! It’s the shift into scenes from “Saved the Bell: The College Years” that don’t ring true. Despite the trite aspect, noteworthy performances from smarmy Adam Poss (Drew), studly Josh Salt (Tim) and an intriguingly complex Ryan Heindl (Teddy).
If TEDDY FERRARA buckled down and focused on what it really wanted to be, it might have an illustrious career.
Running Time: Two hours and forty minutes includes an intermission
At Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
Written by Christopher Shinn
Directed Evan Cabnet
Wednesdays, Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm
Sundays at 2pm and 7:30pm
Thru March 3rd
Buy Tickets at www.goodmantheatre.org