“I get tired of pointing this out to right wing elites, but you can’t have it both ways here. Just as Justice Kennedy impugned Colorado’s ‘clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated [the baker’s] objection,’ we’re not aware of the spiritual leanings of The Red Hen’s ownership. Most faiths, including all those across the Christian spectrum, teach empathy and humility toward the endangered and less fortunate. In fact it’s right there on the Compassionwebsite:
‘In Latin, “compati” means “suffer with.” Compassion means someone else’s heartbreak becomes your heartbreak. Another’s suffering becomes your suffering. True compassion changes the way we live.”
The Good Book has been literally thrown into a cage along with thousands of helpless migrant children. That’s what Evangelical and Christian cynicism looks like in 2018. Perhaps the proprietors of The Red Hen have a conscious moral objection to serving accessories to kidnapping in their establishment. That is now protected by the First Amendment under the SCOTUS ruling. Be careful what you spend three decades fighting for, conservative Snowflakes. The law, at least for now, is still applicable on all sides.”
“To explore these questions, Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project made a series of visits to Laramie to conduct an extensive series of interviews with residents of the shaken town. It is to the writers’ collective credit that a tapestry of perspectives is recorded and shared. There are those who empathize with Matthew and his grieving family but dodge behind scripture and small-town convention to victim shame Shepard, avoiding an actual reckoning with the unspeakable crime. The murderers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, are held up by this crowd as aberrations, deviants—like Shepard himself.
But there are other stories, stories of revelation and personal growth. The white, middle-aged male homicide detective who sees Matthew’s broken body, consoles his devastated parents and decides that homophobia is as dangerous and out of place as a loaded canon. The Catholic priest who concludes that he doesn’t need a Bishop’s blessing or the Bible’s permission to organize a candlelight vigil or publicly condemn the student’s killers. The cautious lesbian academic who becomes more doggedly determined to live her truth, even at the potential risk of her personal safety.
The voices, vignettes and names onstage rotate frequently, embodied by a chameleon-like cast of 12 talented performers.”
“Almost 10 years into a theater criticism career on the Windy City beat, I experienced a first after the proverbial curtain dropped on Guards at the Taj, the haunting new production from Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Before I could find the way to Halsted Street to catch a ride home with my husband, I needed a few minutes to regroup in the restroom. I’m not talking a couple solitary tears. It was a full-on ugly cry. It’s not often that one encounters a work that makes such an immediate, visceral and I suspect, long-lasting impression on the psyche.
The play by 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph is so many things at once: a wry comedy, a beautiful story of friendship, a timeless examination of cultural stigmas, the burdens of duty and the limited choices that confront the poor and powerless each day. The work is a brilliant, linguistic joy, as well as incredibly difficult to watch. Neither Joseph nor director (and Steppenwolf ensemble member) Amy Morton allow the audience to retreat from the conflicting tensions baked into this amazing, one-act piece.”
“Bull in a China Shop illuminates the history of real-life academics and lovers Mary Woolley (Kelli Simpkins) and Jeanette Marks (Emjoy Gavino) at an accelerated, yet thoroughly engaging pace. At the turn of the 20th Century and beyond, Woolley the professor and Marks the student go through a series of career and geographical changes, while passionately endeavoring to create a freer and more representative place for women in global society. Tactics and ideology morph in response to current events and individual circumstances, but Wooley and Marks never sacrifice their devotion to one another. The play is a touching, 40-year love story featuring two brilliant academic, feminist minds. A true tonic for the wounds inflicted by toxic male masculinity narratives.
Yet Wooley and Marks are not one-dimensional saints of suffrage. They are complicated and ambitious. They make compromises that are called into public and private question. They are fully and richly human. The tall, stately Simpkins and the diminutive, but powerful Gavino have a gorgeous onstage rapport that communicates the surprising steadfastness of a relationship that began when Marks was but an idolizing teenager.”
“Nestled within my late-March outfield castigation of Kyle Schwarber was another complaint. One that remains as disappointingly active as it was during Week 1 of the 2018 MLB season. That particular column marked my first public use of the #FreeAlmora hash tag. It appears destined not to be the last. On May 23, Danielle Sauers of Locked on Cubs wrote:
‘There’s no doubt that Albert Almora Jr. is a fan favorite. If he doesn’t start for more than a few days in a row, the #FreeAlmora hash tag is bound to be out in full force. He’s young, charismatic, and has been flashing serious leather in recent games, so it’s easy to see why the fans love him. But can he continue to contribute at a high enough level to justify regular starts?’
The answer, Ms. Sauers, is in the question. Almora has continuously done more than enough to justify his regular place in the starting lineup. He’s hitting a team-leading .324, a solid 34 points ahead of 2016 MVP Kris Bryant. And compared with Ian Happ’s (forgive me) hapless fielding, my guy Almora regularly robs opposing players of extra base hits. Treat yourself to another viewing of his May 27 leap into the right center field gap at Wrigley, cheating Giants’ third-basement Evan Longoria of at least a double. Even if Almora Jr. wasn’t a terrific hitter (he is), I tend to side with the stereotyped middle-aged male crowd. Defense DOES win championships.”
“Switching gears from the contrast in international murder, let’s take a look at the week in racism (gun violence and bigotry are often inextricably linked in the U.S.A., but that’s an expostulation for another day). Today, May 19, 2018 is the day that the very English Prince Harry married a bi-racial, divorced American actress named Meghan Markle– and his father Prince Charles walked her down the aisle. The British Royal Family has officially taken the stick out of its arse and joined the 21st Century. What a time to be alive. I hope somewhere the late Princess Diana is smiling at the fruits of her own progressive battles with convention and tolerance. Cheers to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Meanwhile over here in the United States of America, President Trump referred to undocumented immigrants as ‘animals’ during a Wednesday meeting at the White House. And since we already know that POTUS doesn’t care for pets and finds those that adopt them to be ‘low class,’ we can assume the name calling wasn’t misspoken affection.
The chasm between the national values and morals of the Land of the Free versus the Motherland has seldom felt wider. Time was, say during the Boston Tea Party days of 1773, we could creditably argue occupation of the scrupled high ground. Leaving aside the conditions of native people, women and men of color (which pretty much everyone did in 1773), the white male British subjects in the New World felt a superiority to those across the Atlantic. That belief was grounded in something more than delusion.”
“The simmering hate between the work’s characters is white hot as well. Press materials accurately describe the plot as structured around the mercurial (and possibly Oedipal) Violet (Mary K. Nigohosian). The dowager ‘has summoned a brain surgeon to her home. Her niece Catherine (Grayson Heyl) has been crazed and traumatized since witnessing the horrifyingly violent death of Violet’s son… unwilling to accept other facts about her son’s life, Mrs. Venable pursues extraordinary measures to keep Catherine silent.’
Of course, because this is a Tennessee Williams script, someone is in the closet and there’s also a plentiful portion of colonial racism. When people of color are not relegated to the periphery, as is the case with Miss Foxhill (played by understudy Song Marshall on opening night), they are forthrightly othered, evidenced in painful detail by Catherine’s story of her never-seen cousin Sebastian’s final days in Spain. At the apex of this moment of sociopolitical resistance, we’ve grown all-too-familiar with uncomfortable tensions between meaningful art, the artist and the cultural period in which he or she created.
So perhaps it’s appropriate that the interpersonal dynamics between Violet, Catherine, and the professionals and family members who spin in their orbit, induce another kind of queasiness. One thing we can say for Tennessee Williams, he liked to dive deeply into the caverns of human experience. It’s the spirit in which Suddenly Last Summer was intended and the talented cast turns in uniformly terrific work.”