Saturday September 23rd 2017

“Samuel J. and K.”

It is said that many of us have an identity problem- not really knowing who we truly are or what is expected of us. The current production at Steppenwolf Theatre, as part of the Steppenwolf for Young Adults Program, “Samuel J. and K.”, written by Mat Smart, takes us on a journey into the lives of two young men, brothers, not by blood, but by circumstance and their quest for personal answers to their lives. A remarkable and heartwarming story, directed with a special flair by Ron OJ Parson, Smart’s story appears to real and perhaps biographical, but as it turns out is a story that ties a part of his life to another.

Samuel J. ( played to perfection by Cliff Chamberlain) is a white man, raised by his mother in Naperville, Illinois. His father had left his mother and him when he was young. Soon after, a young African child was left by his parents and taken in by the mother. His name was also Samuel and the initialK ( for Kennedy, JFK) was added so that “moms” could differentiatete. Samuel K. ( deftly handled by Samuel G. Roberson, Jr.) appears to be well adjusted and the relationship between the two “brothers”, as the play opens on the day of Samuel K.’s colleggraduation, seem to be one of respect and love. They are playing hoops, as they have always done, compete. J. works at a somewhat menial job and K. it appears will be a success. J. for his gift has purchased two tickets for a trip to Cameroon,Africa so that K. can find his roots and know from whence he hailed. K. doesn’t want to go, feeling that his life is here in America, in Naperville, but since his brother has made this investment, he opts to go.

What happens on this trip and what unfold during this trip is about each of these young men finding out more about themselves and each other. J. has a girlfriend who he fears committing to and as it turns out K. also has feelings for this girl. On the last night of their trip, secrest come out and J. decides to stay in Africa. As the years go by, J. has established a new life, marrying a “local” and having twins, a boy and girl while K. goes home and finds work so that he can care for their “moms” who little by little is losing it and must be placed in a home. K. continues to search for answers as to what went wrong between what he felt was a perfect relationship and family and J. finds that he has now found what he has always wanted, a family and something that he missed while growing up.

This is a highly emotional story, well acted and directed with the warmth and feeling that the script was meant to evoke. At the conclusion o fthis heartfelt story, I would think that most audience members will want to talk about the emotions they felt and should you be in a situation where there has been some distance between a family member, want to pick up a phone and call or if available to visit, do so and maybe even hug that family member. This is a powerful story and young Mr. Smart hits the nail on the head. We all want to do the right thing! We all want to  discover what and who we are!  Steppenwolf for Young Adults is a program designed to bring meaning to theater for high school students as well as their teachers and parents- thought provoking topics that will open te doors for discussion. This play certainly accomplishes this mission.

While the majority of the performances are geared for school groups only, they do offer performances for the public on Saturdays and Sundays through March 13th at 11 a.m. Tickets are only $20 and 2-for-1 on Sundays.

Steppenwolf is located at 1650 N. HalstedStreet and this production is in the intimate Upstairs Theater. To order tickets, call 312-335-1650 or visit www.steppenwolf.org

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