Recommended *** Transitions! Every city goes through changes as the population changes. We hear the term “gentrification” as the neighborhoods make the change and what was a bad neighborhood becomes the new desired spot to invest in. In the Chicago Premier of “Buzzer”, written by Tracey Scott Wilson, now on stage in the Owen Theatre of The Goodman, we see such a story unfold. While we are never told what city they are in, we can assume that it is a larger city and that Jackson (a strong performance by Eric Lynch) who grew up in this “hood” and is now a successful attorney seeing the changes, opts to invest in a world that was once his and now will be a shining example of the new world that this African American has built for himself.
His girlfriend, Suzy ( deftly handled by Lee Stark) is a White school teacher who was raised in a more privileged, suburban area, but her love for Jackson is so strong that making him happy is what truly counts. But there is a third person in this play- one Don ( played to perfection by Shane Kenyon) who has been Jackson’s best friend for many years despite being a druggie and what might be called a “loser”. So now, these three will share living quarters in a neighborhood where those who live there feel threatened by the newbies, the “twenty-somethings” who are taking over what was theirs.
Directed by Jessica Thebus on a set that changes the configuration of the Owen Theatre so that audience members sit behind the actors as well as in front and on the sides. For those of you unfamiliar with this venue, it is far smaller than the Albert and much more flexible when it comes to sets and staging, which make sit ideal for an intimate story such as this one. The set ( Walt Spangler)represents the large apartment that these three share as well as the neighborhood itself and the downstairs vestibule where the front door is. This is to indicate why the title is important those who come to visit or deliver must push the bell and be buzzed up or in. However as the building is going through re-hab, the buzzer is not functioning properly. At the very end of the play, this becomes far more important to what Wilson is truly saying about the racial tension that exists even as an area changes.
The story is about change and relationships the neighborhood and the three people moving into the apartment. There are some things that take place regarding Don and Suzy and Don and Jackson as well as those who fear what the changes will bring to their lives. We learn some secrets from the years gone by between Don and Jackson as we delve into issues about class, race and our reactions to each other. The lighting ( John Culbert), costumes (Birgit Rattenborg Wise) and sound, which includes the sounds of the city that are stark anbd realistic. ( Mikhail Fiksel) all add to the powerful story that is told. There are some wonderful moments in the production and while there are many who will find this piece one that will bring conversation quickly, I found the ending a bit to stark. I didn’t feel that we needed to have it thrown in our faces. This is the type of play that allows for an open discussion with the cast or crew after each Wednesday performance.
Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. ( except on 3/9 closing)
There is also a 7:30 p.m. show on February 25th
Tickets start at $10 and go to $40 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.Org/Buzzer
This is a general admission show, so there are no reserved seats. The theater is located at 170 N. Dearborn Street. Discounted parking is available at Government Center self Park on Lake Street ( do not park at the garage on Dearborn).
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Buzzer”.