Sunday October 23rd 2016

“The Qualms”

qualms logo Bruce Norris is an amazing playwright, that audiences either love or hate. Over my years of watching his works take to  life on the stage at Steppenwolf Theatre, I have become one of those on the “love” side.  His newest play, directed with a special touch by Pam Mackinnon, is 90 minutes of pure comedy, but it is not for everybody. Why? Because  the topic is one that makes it “not for everyone’! It is about “swingers”! Yes! Swingers ! The story begins in the beachside home of Gary (the always reliable Keith Kupferer) and his girlfriend, Teri (deftly handled by Kate Arrington) as they talk to their new friends,  Chris  (Greg Stuhr) and his new wife, Kristy (the adorable Diane Davis) as they begin the evenings festivities.

The evening ahead is a “party” of sorts, where as the evening progresses, couples will join with others in what they call “The Party Room” (which we never see) and their lives will take a turn, For better or worse, is something each of us will judge for ourselves. Chris and Kristy are the only married couple at the “party” and as we meet all the characters we find that while they are all uniquely different, they are all very like in their feelings about what sex truly is- it is a power that one holds over the other in a relationship that we learn about from each of these “players”. Chris, as it turns out, may have a special reason for bringing his new wife to this once in a lifetime opportunity, and during the 90 minutes we find that each of the characters has their own special reasons for attending these “parties” .                                                  qualms-set

While the subject matter is not what you might discuss over dinner with friends, it is something that most people have had some thoughts about in their lives. Could I? Would I? Is love shown through physical attraction or through the feelings and emotions? Is sex used for the wrong reasons and is it possible for someone to be happily in a relationship and yet explore having sex with another knowing that it is “just sex” and a release, not affection?. Norris takes a long hard look at the creature known as “human being” and the wonder that makes them wander.

While the topic is one that may offend some theater audience members, it is handled with great skill and even the complex use of the “F” bomb doesn’t hinder the smoothness in which Mackinnon skillfully brings to light the eternal struggle for power, status , and having sex! The cast is a perfect mix/match of actors playing roles that are people you might just expect to be in this situation. There is Ken (an amazing character developed by Paul Oakley Stovall) who might be gay or even bi-sexual, Roger (great to see David Pasquesi back at Steppenwolf), Kirsten Fitgerald (an amazing performances as Deb, the hefty widow with a new boyfriend . Ken), and Regine ( Karen Aldridge,who once again shows her dexterity in the characters she plays), Roger’s lover. The only other character in the play is handled by Owais Ahmed. This is a solid cast that creates the full feeling that what we are seeing is in fact happening, now!qualms4

We must credit the technical people in making this production come to life. When walking into the Downstairs theater at Steppenwolf, you will see the beach home of Gary and Teri, and want to call your mover. What a neat place to reside. The set by Todd Rosenthal is breath-taking. Janice Pytel’s costumes, Russell H. Champas’  lighting, Rick Sims (sound) and Matt Hawkins (Fight Choreography) along with the fantastic props (Andrew Lex, Jamie Karas and Desiree Arnold) make this entire picture very realistic. Everything works! What we see is very real and at the same time, a comical look at a subject that in many ways is very serious. There are post production discussions after each performance.

“The Qualms” will continue through August 31st at The Steppenwolf Theatre “downstairs” located at 1650 N. Halsted Through August 31st with performances as follows:qualms2

Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. August 13th-27th

Thursdays  at 7:30 p.m.

Fridays 7:30 p.m.

Saturdays 3 and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays at 3 and 7:30 p.m. (thru 8/17)

8/24 and 31 only 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $20-$86 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 312-335-1650 or online at

For student tickets  $15 tickets prices for students LIMIT TWO

To see what others are saying, visit, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Qualms”


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