Somewhat recommended ** The Goodman Theatre’s new production, “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”, is a gem of a play, but it’s woefully out of date. I don’t think anyone has had a deep philosophical discussion about the meaning of life while drinking themselves blind, since the sixties. Even then, they were rare. I wasn’t completely bored, so I give “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” 2½ Spotlights.
I can recall a few people I knew back in the ‘60s who fit the above profile, but I haven’t met any since. I can’t see how anyone younger than 60 could be at all interested in these smug, self-involved, Bohemians. In the age of social media, the Bohemian life has lost its allure. Although it was superbly acted, I just couldn’t feel empathy for any of these characters.
Sidney Brustein (Chris Stack) and his wife, Iris (Diane Davis), live in a walk-up apartment in Greenwich Village. Kevin Depinet has designed a unique set which places their apartment on a huge scaffolding with girders showing both below and above. Stairways access their apartment and lead up to their upstairs neighbor David’s (Grant James Varjas) apartment and the roof.
There was one scene involving that scaffolding that made me so uneasy I had to look away. Iris and Sidney were up on the roof – represented by something that looked like a giant diving platform. I’m afraid of heights, so I was terrified when they sat and dangled their legs off the end of this top-heavy platform.
Getting back to the story, Sidney dabbles in careers. His most recent failure was a nightclub, for people could listen to folk music, which didn’t even serve booze. Now, he’s purchased a failing weekly Village newspaper. Iris works as a waitress. She wants to be an actress, but she refuses to go to auditions.
Sidney’s friend, Alton (Travis A. Knight), has proposed to Iris’s sister, Gloria (Kristen Magee), who is thinking it over. Everyone – except Alton – seems to know that Gloria is a hooker, but no one will tell him. Another sister, Mavis (Miriam Silverman), is a conservative housewife, who has no use for Sidney or any of his friends.
When Max (Phillip Edward Van Lear) designs the masthead for Sidney’s newspaper, he places the newspaper’s name (in 6 point type) in the lower right corner – which no one finds particularly strange. David is an unpublished writer who happens to be gay.
At the urging of his friends, Sidney endorses and then actively campaigns for Wally O’Hara (Guy Van Swearingen) who bills himself as a reformer bucking the system, who turns out to be owned by the bosses.
“The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” is the Goodman’s Tribute to Lorraine Hansberry, who was a Chicago playwright who died at the age of 34. Her play, “A Raisin in the Sun” was a huge Broadway hit later made into a movie starring Sydney Poitier and Ruby Dee.
Performances are :
Thursdays at 2:00 and 7:30 pm
Fridays at 8:00 pm
Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 pm
Sundays at 2:00 and 7:30 pm.
Tickets range from $20-$75. Parking is available at a slightly reduced rate in the Government Center Garage (with a validation) or you can take advantage of the new online payment option: payment in advance is just $16.00. FYI (312) 443-3800 or www.goodmantheatre.org.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”.