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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, March 1

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Theatre Sun Jan 18 2009

ATC and Congo Square Team Up with True West, Topdog/Underdog

The first time anyone saw True West in Chicago, John Malkovich and Gary Sinise were playing the lead roles at Steppenwolf. It's your classic Sam Shepard family odyssey: two brothers come together, innocuously at first, but after 70 minutes one obliterates a typewriter with a golf club and the other tries to strangle him. And while one version of American Theater Company's True West is probably similar to the 1982 Steppenwolf production (just replace the word "typewriter" with "MacBook"), the other is decidedly different: the two brothers are black.

Okay, I know what you're thinking, and fear not: this isn't exactly a case of an all-white ensemble attempting a shot at diversity by simply casting black actors in a typically all-white play. ATC and Congo Square Theatre have collaborated on two plays, one with a typically all-white cast, the other all-black, presenting two versions of each: one traditional, the "alternate" with the races reversed.

The other play is Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog. The scripts were obviously chosen for their similarities: troubled brothers confronting their pasts, one a thief and one making a career in the arts (a screenwriter and an Abe Lincoln impersonator in whiteface, go figure). But True West was more malleable where race is concerned. As ATC artistic director PJ Paparelli explains, "Topdog is much more challenging because the play has direct references to African Americans." This required some adaptation, namely, making the two brothers in the white version of the play, "two white boys growing up in an extremely urban environment."

Does it work? ATC lets the audience decide for themselves. Purchase tickets to one production and you get a coupon to see the alternate version at half price. Tickets are available online or by calling 773-409-4125. Until March 8 at American Theater Company, 1909 W Byron.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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