Griffin Theatre Company, celebrating its 25th year of bringing quality theater to Chicago audiences is now presenting the Chicago Premiere of Ena Lamont Stewart’s “Men Should Weep” on the stage at The Raven Theatre Complex. The story is set in the 1930’s, Glasgow , Scotland, as we follow the misfortunes of one particular family, the Morrison Family! For you history buffs, the 1930’s were “tough times”. It was the Depression and many men were out of work, not just in Scotland, but world-wide. In fact, this play could easily be transformed to Brooklyn just as well and even with different accents, would be understandable for audiences. As a note, there are times, when I wish companies would think about the “accents” when selecting plays. It is not always easy to find actors who can sustain a true accent for a full play. This is a three act play, almost 3 hours from curtain to curtain call, but because of the quality cast assembled by director Robin Witt and her amazing movement on the very realistic set by Courtney O’Neill (an Irish designer doing a realistic Scottish set? oh well, a depressions kitchen would probably be the same in both lands).we get a clear picture of our playwright’s story.
This play has not been done in America for over three decades and while it is very accurate in what life was all about during this era, I think younger audiences who know very little about what people went through during that time might find this story to be far-fetched. The men doing nothing but drinking! The women taking on any job they could in order to put food on the table! The families taking in other family members, in particular those who had some pension or retirement funds (that they could use)! These were real! I have heard the stories from my relatives who lived it. Being a true “Baby Boomer”, I came after the world had gotten back on track, so these were stories I heard, but watching Stewart’s version truly makes one think.
This is the story of a working class family during a time when work was not available. It is the story of how a family survives the storm and how their neighbors and friends join them in meeting the challenges of what life is presenting to them. Because of the situations and the closeness, there are no real secrets from each other and their Matriarch, Maggie (a solid and warm portrayal by Lori Myers), despite the hardships that each day brings, finds ways to cope with each of the problems and keep her family on the right track.
There are many set-backs ,and over the two plus hours of story-telling we know that these are strong people who despite the problems, for the most part will keep their family , both actual and extended,together and in harmony. In the long run, we do see some happiness for these characters. Perhaps not in the way that one would expect, but in any event a happy ending. The powerful cast is made up of Katherine Banks, the hilarious Maggie Cain as granny ( after just seeing the new “Beverly Hillbillies , the Musical”, I can tell you that this Granny is even funnier than that one), Christina Gormon, Ada Grey, Curtis Jackson, Jodi Kingsley, Tim Martin, Ashley Neal, the luscious and seductive Amanda Powell, Ellie Reed , as daughter Jenny who goes from bad girl to good in a special transformation, Michael Saguto, Roxanne Saylor, T.Isaac Sherman and Scot West as Maggie’s Husband John.
Yes, the cast speaks with a brogue, but guess what? They are very understandable. The lighting (Brandon Wardell), sound (Victoria Deiorio), costumes (Kate Murphy) and props (boy, are there props- by Janelle Boudreau) all add to the beauty of this wonderful production. While this play may have been written as a spite play, to show the world that there was more to life than Oscar Wilde and his light and airy characters and stories, it is a meaningful experience for theater audiences to view, living up to the standards that Griffin continues to bring to the stages where they hand their hat, until they get their own home built and open.
“Men Should Weep” will continue at The Raven Theatre Complex located at 6157 N. Clark Street (at Granville) through August 10th with performances as follows:
on Saturday, August 9th there will be an additional 2:30 matinee
Tickets are $35 ( students and seniors, $30) and are available by calling 866-811-4111. or online at www.griffintheatre.com
There is a lot adjacent to the theater-FREE and some street parking, some metered, some not. A few dining spots are in the area, visit www.raventheatre.com
Public transportation is easy as the 22 Clark street bus stops at the door.
To see what others are saying, visit www.thetareinchiacgo.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “men Should Weep”