Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“The Crowd You’re In With”

It is always great to see one of our younger theater companies take on challenges, and Ann Filmer, Artistic Director of 16th Street  Theater, a very intimate Equity company located in Suburban Berwyn,  fears nothing. This company, in its 4th season has taken on  Rebecca Gilman’s “The Crowd You’re In With” with great style. This play was recently done in a much larger theater with a much larger budget, yet , this very intimate production has much more feeling. The play takes place on July 4th in a neighborhood back yard. The hosts of this holiday barbecue Jasper ( deftly handled by Sorin Brouwers) and his wife, Melinda ( a solid performance by Michelle Courvais) are trying to have a child and their best friends Dan ( Brad Harbaugh) and Windsong ( Skyler Schrempp, who can run the gamut of emotions at will and never loses her character) are pregnant. So far Melinda and Jasper have had no luck and part of the conversation is about this. When the upstairs neighbors , who are also their landlords, arrive and advise them to begin searching for a new residence. As it turns out, they have no children and never wanted any and  they do not want a baby or child disturbing their set lives.

What goes on for the next 60 minutes ( this is a  75 minute play with no intermission) are many discussions about people, couples, children, politics and  life itself ( with or without children). Another guest, their friend Dwight ( the very funny And Slade) arrives and gets into the conversation. He has a very clever monologue about his work as a waiter and how people with kids act in restaurants. His rantings about the “Tupperware” containers and in particular the one filled with “Cheerios” that are never eaten, just tossed about for him to clean up, is not only hysterical, it is quite factual. The discussion brings the party “down” and the upstairs neighbors leave. The others do as well after some arguments and disagreements and then the neighbors return. Tom ( a very real character played by Steve Ratcliff) and Karen ( a dynamic performance by Joan Kohn) sit with Jasper and begin to tel their story. Why did they choose not to breed? As they tell their story to Jasper, we can sense that they are saying some of the things that he has been thinking and after they finish, Melinda and Jasper continue their discussion.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but will tell you that this is a “think piece” that brings up many questions. Do we have children because it is expected of us? If two people are deeply in love, do they need a child to keep the love alive? There is a story related by Tom that truly makes one think. He tells of visiting his grandmother at a nursing home when he was a child. Often it was on a Sunday, which would be the perfect day for family members to visit thier loved ones. What he saw were a great number of old people, watching television, alone! Surely, some of them had children! This raises the question; is it better to be in this position knowing there are no children to visit? Or knowing that there are children who just didn’t have the time to visit? To breed or not to breed! That is the question.

Directed skillfully by  Anish Jethmalani on this very small stage with a marvelous set( Roger Wykes has created a masterpiece) with great lighting by Mac Vaughey and sound by Christi De Risi, this is a production that will keep your attention and focus for the entire 75 minutes and from time to time, their will be discussions after the show with cast members. To find out when , check with the theater located at 6420 16th Street in The Berwn Cultural Center ( a very small intimate theater in a small and intimate building) just west of Ridgeland  and very easy to get to- only 20 minutes from the loop) There is plenty of free parking and even a few restaurants down the street.

This production will continue through August  13th ( some of the post cards printed earlier had the 31st- it is the 13th!) with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.and Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m.

Tickets are $18 ( this is probably one of the best theater bargains in town) and can be purchased online at www.16thstreettheater.org or you can visit the North Berwyn Park District office at 1619 Wesley in Berwyn or by phone at 708-795-6704

Students can purchase RUSH tickets ( subject to availability) for $10- day of performance.

If you have been to one of their productions, you owe it to yourself to make the first trip to Berwyn- if you have been there before, you know what to expect, so order your tickets right away. I am not sure they can extend this run!

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