Tuesday October 17th 2017

“Immediate Family”

Most everyone has had to deal with “family situations” that are uncomfortable and most families are somewhat dysfunctional; Not always to the naked eye, but if you dig down deep, you will find that there are some hidden secrets in all our lives. Paul Oakley Stovall’s  new play, now on the stage in Goodman Theatre’s Owen,”Immediate Family” is the story of a Hyde Park, African American family as they get together for one of the sibling’s wedding weekend. Directed smoothly by Phylicia Rashad ( of The Cosby Show fame), who knows a lot about “family” and “sit-com” on a magnificent set by John Iacovelli ( on viewing the set, many people said that they would love to move right into this home), this is 90 minutes of fun and a learning experience.

While it does have a sit-com feel to begin with, as we get to meet all the characters, we begin to see the realism of the plot and subplots in Stovall’s tale. The Bryant family is upper middle class, living in a wonderful home in Hyde Park. The matriarch of the family is Evy ( Shanesia Davis). Living in the house with her is brother Tony ( a delightful performance by Kamal Angelo Bolden) who is about to get married. Another brother, Jesse ( deftly handled by Phillip James Brannon) is coming home for the wedding and ha sinvited his friend , a photographer , to come and do the pictures. Next door, is Nina (a delightful J.Nicole Brooks) and another half sister, Ronnie ( a powerful performance by Cynda Williams) has arrived for the nuptials as well.

What seems like a family that has some little problems develops quickly into dysfunction as we find out that Jesse is Gay ( they all seemed to know except Evy) and his photgrapher friend is his lover, Kristian ( Patrick Sarb ), which might be bad enough, but to make it just a little more of an uneasy situation, he is from Sweden and is White! As the story continues, we also learn that Tony’s fiance is 5 months pregnant,Ronnie is an alcoholic ( partly because of her being treated as an outsider- they shared a father, but not a mother) and that Jesse has been lying to them (and himself) over the past years.

What transpires on this eve before the rehearsal dinner day is all of the family members coming to terms with who they are, why they are what they are and being able to accept each other as is! Again, this is pretty typical of a “sit-com”, but so well played and directed that we can forgive it being so. This production is 90 minutes of people being people and learning from each other about life. At the end of the play, we see that Jesse and Kristian come to terms with their lives and their futures and that Evy realizes that all she thought was what life was meant to be, could be different- that perhaps two people loving and caring for one another is more important than ” a man and a woman getting married and having a child, no matter how they feel about each other”. The last scene is quite touching with some great incidental music by Joshua Horvath ( who also does the sound)., along with some wonderful moments between Brannon and Sarb as well as a special moment for Ms Davis.

A strong cast, well directed , on a fantastic set with solid lighting (Heather Gilbert), perfect costumes (Ana Kuzmanic) and a super array of properties(Jesse Gaffney)- these are the ingredients that make this what could be a simple sit-com into a memorable piece of theater, one that will allow us to laugh at what we are and who we are and open our eyes to how we evade issues for the wrong reasons. I also want to say that the fight scene ( a  real challenge for the number of people involved) is well choreographed by Nick Sandys, who truly shows why theare companies hire him on a regular basis- this fight is as real looking as one would expect. Bravo! To the actors and to Mr. Sandys.

“Immediate Family” will continue at The Goodman, in association with  About Face Theatre Company through August 5th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m., Wednesdays , 7:30 p.m.,Thursdays 7:30 p.m. ( matinees at 2 p.m. begin after July 10th),Fridays 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. ( No evening performances after July 8th)

There will be NO performances on July 2nd,3rd and 4th.

Tickets range from $20-$54 and are available at the theater box office located at  170 N. Dearborn, by phone at 312-423-6612 or online at www.goodmantheatre.org

For more, check out Immediate Family page at www.theatreinchicago.com



One Comment for ““Immediate Family””

  • don Padgett says:

    you mention everyone except the person who designed the “fantastic set” John Iacovelli. I am sure he would have appreciated the nod.

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