Tracy Letts' timing on target in 'The Minutes'

Tracy Letts' timing on target in 'The Minutes'
Photo: Michael Brosilow

Tracy Letts, the writer of Linda Vista and August: Osage County, captures the pulse of politics in today’s America with his scathing new comedy “The Minutes” now running at Steppenwolf Theatre and slated for Broadway this spring. 

Letts uses the lens of the mid-sized town of “Big Cherry” to expose the ugliness behind some of our most closely-held American narratives with the action taking place in the town’s city council hall that is similar to many in mid-America, designed by David Zinn, who based his design on Peoria, Illinois’ city council.  minutes3

Nothing is small about the small-town politics in “Big Cherry” where the City Council is, once again, making plans to celebrate its “fake” past with the Big Cherry Heritage Festival that is based on a myth that has been handed down for generations.        

When the myth is exposed by Mr. Carp (Ian Barford) the council goes to extremes to hide the truth. That is until, new council member, Mr. Peel (Cliff Chamberlain) returns to the council after missing the last meeting and finds both Mr. Carp and “the minutes” missing.

As he digs deep to find out what happened to the minutes and Mr. Carp he is told the minutes weren’t completed. He continues to question the missing minutes and the disappearance of Mr. Carp getting no straight answers.

The council, lead with a powerful performance by Mayor Superba (William Petersen), tries to continue with business as usual hoping to silence Peel.

Petersen is joined by a stellar line-up of council members that could be typical of aldermen in any middle-class, mid-sized town in America who spend too much time on small issues while ignoring the big picture.

There’s long-time council member Francis Guinan (as Mr. Oldfield) who is more worried about who will get access to an undesignated parking space than the business at hand; then there’s Danny McCarthy (as Mr. Hanratty) who tries to convince the council to get behind his elaborate plan for an accessible city-center fountain named after the town’s hero from the “fake” past; Penny Slusher (as Ms. Innes), is all about making sure the Big Cherry Heritage Festival continues; Kevin Anderson (as Mr. Breeding), serves as a yes man; James Vincent Meredith (as Mr. Blake), gives the feeling he has something he’d like to say but int the end goes along with the popular opinion; Jeff Still (as Mr. Assalon) is the force behind a questionable bicycle scam; while, Cliff Chamberlain (as Mr. Peel) seems to be the right man to get to the important issues as he pounds away searching for the truth until he finds it. Brittany Burch (as Ms. Johnson) is the perfect straight-laced–go by the rules clerk who is careful not to let her true feelings be known.

“The Minutes”does an excellent job of exploring the myths people use to hide from the uncomfortable truth about the past by creating  a fake history in order to live a comfortable life.

The hope of “The Minutes”is that it will serve as a spring board for discussions about our history and help us take an honest look at what really happened in our past and what we plan to do about it.

Rating: 3 stars

Tickets: Tickets are available through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or online. Regular Run: $20 – $105. Prices subject to change.Twenty $20 tickets are available on the day of the performance by phone only at 312-335-1650. Limit 2 per person. Rush Tickets: Half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show.

Where: Steppenwolf Theatre Downstairs, 1650 N. Halsted

When: now through January 7, 2018

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Filed under: Theater in Chicago

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