Thursday October 19th 2017

“Teddy Ferrara”

teddySomewhat Recommended ** It is not often that I will see a World Premiere at The Goodman Theatre where I am not entranced at the overall production, but, sadly, I was not impressed by the Premiere of “Teddy Ferrara” written by Christopher Shinn ( a Pulitzer Prize finalist). The topics of this play, Bullying, social difference in today’s college environment, jealousy, fear  and secrets, may be part of the problem. There are many and although they intertwine, I believe that Shinn tried to make them all fit in a lengthy ( almost 2 hours/45 minutes) story of a college campus, where  homosexuality is taking over. Teddy ( Ryan Heindl) is not the main character, but rather the focus point. I do not want to give it all away, but it is almost impossible not to tell you that Teddy is “gay” and invites an Internet “lover” to his dorm room where his roommate videos the events and broadcasts them on the Internet. This should tell you what one might expect a sit is a topic that has been in the news on too many occasions over the years.

The key character in the story is Gabe ( a solid performance by Liam Benzvi) , a senior at college. He has a bright future. He is involved in an organization, the Queer Students Group and is planning to run for Student Council President in order to spread the word that all students should have equal rights, no matter there sexual identity or for that matter, if they have disabilities. He has fallen in love with the newspaper editor, Drew ( deftly handled by  Adam Poss) who is, as it turns out, not to be trusted, by anyone. He is “above” all others and will do whatever it takes to have the upper hand. Gabe’s lifelong best friend, Tim ( Josh Salt) is as straight as they come ( or is he) . Tim’s girlfriend,Jenny ( Paloma Nozicka) is also buddy buddy with Gabe.

While theses are the central characters, there are some others that truly play into all the story lines;  Kelli Simpkins is glorious as Ellen, a Lesbian faculty member, who is part of a campus organization being set-up by the College President ( as always, a solid performance by Patrick Clear) and another Chicago favorite, Janet Ulrich Brooks take son the role of the provost. These are the three adults in the plot and I am wondering why there is never any contact with others at the school or parents at home ( even by phone or e-mail, after all these are college students in today’s technological world). In this group, that also includes Gabe are two others , one handicapped and the other another transgender.(Christopher Imbrosciano and Jax Jackson). This is the group that is supposed to help the President help overcome a terrible situation.teddy2 Teddy_163x65

The other character of note is Nicky ( Rashaad Hall) a reporter for the campus newspaper who it turns out is also gay and has had desire for Drew and later for Gabe. As you can see there are many triangles of who is with who. Gabe loves Drew ( who loves whoever will be willing); Jay loves Gabe,;Nicky loves Drew, but will settle for Gabe; Teddy just wants to be loved;Tim is unsure of who he truly loves and we never really get to know enough about Ellen. There are too many intertwined stories that take us back and forth as to why Teddy does what he does and why all the players do all the things they do with all the others they do them with. If this sounds convoluted, it is!

The talent in this production is solid, the set (Lee Savage) is simple but functional and the lighting(Keith Parham) works. Director Evan Cabnet uses the stage in the smaller Owen , well but on a few occasions, the players, facing away from the audience forces us to strain to hear the lines. I have always liked the old way directors worked, “play to the back row”, but today it seems that to be more realistic, the actors speak in conversational range, so a lot of the story gets lost on a portion of those in attendance. There are some light tones ( mostly handled by Mr. Clear and Ms Brooks) but the overall story is one that is real and scary, yet because there is an attempt to cover too much, it gets a bit confusing. There are several things that change the course of the lives of these students and the University President. There are a number of unanswered questions for these people, and I wish it could have been chopped down to less stories with more answers.

On a special not: during the opening, in Act Two, there was a moment of panic when an audience member evidently passed out. We saw people getting up out of their seats and heading for the exit. First two men , followed by three others and then what appeared to be the entire section. The paramedics were called, the house lights put on an the actors froze in their spots. As the clock ticked, audience members came to the aid of this women and revived her until the Paramedics appeared. She left and the report we were given after the show is that she was being observed but that she was doing fine. It is always good to know that when an emergency happens in a large venue, that help is not far away and that in every audience there are cool and calm heads to make sure of this. By the way, the Paramedics were applauded as they left the building and as the lights dimmed, the actors took their places and went on as if there had been no interruption. Bravo to all.

“Teddy Ferrara” will continue through March 3rd with performances as follows:

Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.,Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. ( except on the 3rd, no evening performance). There is also a Tuesday performance on 2/18.

There will be no performances on 2/20, and 2/22

Tickets range from $14-$45 and can be purchased at the box office, located at 170 N. Dearborn Street, by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www/GoodmanTheatre.org/Teddy

Something new- because this is a story geared for young people ( to learn about these situations) a new $10TIX program- purchase on line using the promo code 10TIX

Following Wednesday performances there will be FREE talk-back sessions with members of The Goodman staff.

to see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com , go to Review Round-up and click on Teddy Ferrara”

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