Steppenwolf Theatre is one of our resident companies that never fears taking risks and they prove that on a consistint basis. The current production on their “downstairs” stage is unique in that it is a story about “language”, but not in the usual way- “language” in this particular story written by Nina Raines is about a family, an English family ( although it could easily be any “language” as the main one of the family), that lives in its own world- all artists of sort ( teacher/writer, Opera Singer, Author, and comic actor and then there is Billy, a son who was born deaf, but not allowed to live in the life of a deaf person- no sign language ( ah, there is that word), but more or less raised to read lips and expressions. Why should this family be different from any other? As it turns out, Billy ( a masterful portrayal by John McGinty, who has played this role before coming to Chicago) who a sit turns out, is the only family member who truly hears what is being said by the others!
In addition to McGinty, who as I said was wonderful are his father, Christopher ( another solid performance by Chicago favorite, Francis Guinan), his mother, Beth ( deftly handled by Molly Regan), his sister, Ruth ( newcomer Helen Sadler, who truly holds her own with this exceptional cast) and brother Daniel ( another newcomer Steve Haggard). This is one heck of a family and as directed by Austin Pendleton, we have a family that love sto yell at each other, use a lot of vulgarity and tease and joke. We then have added to this mix, a young woman, Sylvia ( the always reliable Alana Arenas, who Billy meets at a party- she is speaking in sign language and when he finds out that she is not deaf, but comes from a family that is and she herself is soon to become, he falls madly in love. Understand that Bill has never had these feelings or the companionship that he is now feeling and it is hard for his family to accept that Sylvia is taking him away from their hold.
While the subject matter of the play is about showing people how others live or exist, with disabilities, there is really more to it than just the deaf person in the family! The story is about all families and how they tend to not allow each member to find their own identity. Many of us are known by our family and who they are instead of who we are and what it is we want to do or be! I believe that Raine attempts to bring this to a head, but there are some confusing moments whi keep this production from being a highly recommended rating- The acting , however is.
The set ( divinely created by Walt Spangler) has a little confusion as well. There is an attic type room, high above the wonderful house that is lit and furnished but never used or even referred to. If your eye keeps getting pushe dto look away from the action wondering will that room ever be used, you lose some of the coninuity of action on the stage. The lighting (Keith Parham), Sound/original music(Josh Schmidt) and projection design (John Boesche) all add to the overall picture being painted, and while they are not mentioned in the credits, the props department did a spectacular job.
“Tribes” will continue at Steppenwolf Theatre , 1650 N. Halsted Street, through February 9th with a performances schedule as foolows:
Tuesday 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday 7:30 p.m. ( no Christmas or New Years)
Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. start1/15
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
7:30 p.m. on 12/22 thru 1/12 and a 1:30 p.m. performance on 1/26
Tickets range from $20-$82 can be ordered by calling 312-335-1650, visiting the box office or online at www.steppenwolf.org
Don’t forget, they have a 20 for $20 ticket policy on DATY of-
parking is available at the Steppenwolf Garage, on the street ( metered and some non) or at some of the dining spots in the area with valet parking.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Tribes”
To find special pricing on tickets and learn more about some special programs including post show discussions, visit www.steppenwolf.org