About Face Theatre presents the Chicago Premiere of THE PRIDE.
What a difference a day makes…. times 365 x 50. Playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell explores the emotional entanglements of homosexuality in 1958 vs 2008. Campbell imagines the same three people living out their lives at different points in history. He skillfully intertwines the stories using the same actors for both eras. The scenes alternate between 1958 and 2008. It’s like channel flipping between “Mad Men” and “The New Normal.”
Under the masterful direction of Bonnie Metzgar, the acting is in one word: *excellent.* The dialogue is tight. The British accents are natural (nod out to Dialect Coach Anita Deely). The comedy is witty. The drama is intense. The transformation of the actors from 58’s straitlaced, repressed, self-loathing to 08’s outspoken, aggressive, self-absorption is a marvel. On the mid-Century stylish set by William Boles, Metzgar uses scene transitions to literally and figuratively tear down the walls of secrecy and acceptance. Making the jump from ‘58 to ‘08, Metzgar has actors step into this scenery column. The column converts into a makeshift closet illuminated by Lighting Designer Becca Jeffords. The actor literally and symbolically strips off their clothes and ‘comes out of the closet.’ The imagery is powerful.
At the core of relational turmoil, Patrick Andrews (Oliver) and John Francisco (fifty) portray a coupling fifty years apart. Andrews brilliantly engages in a wide range of emotion. He walks the tight rope between love-struck poet and sadistic sexual explorer. A soulful Andrews delivers gut-punching vulnerability in both realms. Francisco compellingly confronts his own fears as a closeted husband and later a spurned lover. His desperation is palpable and then almost playful.
Jessie Fisher (Sylvia) has her own one woman liberation. Fisher evolves from fragility to agility. Over the years, the mousy, tight-lipped Fisher blossoms into a confident, independent, fag hag. Playing multiple roles, Benjamin Sprunger is most noteworthy as a straight man expressing his disgust over homophobia. Sprunger’s rant hilariously turns personal as he shares a surprisingly tender story about his uncle. Metzgar’s ensemble captivates in their past and present worlds.
THE PRIDE has a lot to be proud of. Campbell penned a poignant tribute to the history of homosexuality. In showcasing the evolution of thought behind the gay movement, Campbell used two phrases that resonated with me. “Glimpse of the possibility of being brave” and “dignity that comes from being heard.” Both of these descriptors honor the pioneers of the gay rights movement. The commitment and courage of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to face adversity, then and now, makes me proud. THE PRIDE is a living memorial to the past, present and future GLBT community.
Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission
At Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln
Written by Alexi Kaye Campbell
Directed by Bonnie Metzgar
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 5pm and 9pm
Sundays at 5pm
No performances June 14th or July 4th
Added performance on July 8th at 7:30pm
EXTENDED Thru July 28th
Buy Tickets at www.aboutfacetheatre.com
Photo by Michael Brosilow