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Theater Wed Jun 27 2012
Sibling squabbles and secrets abound in Paul Oakley Stovall's Immediate Family, now playing at the Goodman Theatre.
Directed by Tony award-winning actress and "The Cosby Show" star Phylicia Rashad, Immediate Family, described as "Modern Family" meets "Soul Food," is the story of the Bryants, a middle-class African-American family who, after being apart for several years, reunite at the family's home in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.
The Bryant Family is led by the annoyingly uptight and uber-judgmental Evy, (Shanésia Davis), whose character is reminiscent of Vanessa L. Williams' "Terri" in Soul Food, minus any redeeming qualities whatsoever. At the center of the drama is the brothers, who, because of their "secrets," constantly tiptoe around Evy--for younger brother Tony (scene stealer Kamal Angelo Bolden), it's a pregnant fiancée--for Jesse (Phillip James Brannon)--it is his homosexuality (he hasn't officially come out) that Evy is certain to disapprove of.
And it is with Jesse's story that the play boldly confronts the touchy issue of homophobia in the black community and the racism within the same, as a result of Jesse's partner, Kristian (Patrick Sarb); for Tony, it is fine that his brother is gay (his problem is that his lover is white) and for Evy, he has merely lost his way and the cure is for him to "find his way back to the Lord."
Other social issues addressed in the story center on Ronnie (Chicago native Cynda Williams), the bi-racial sister who was the product of their father's infidelities, and the simultaneous feelings of resentment and acceptance the siblings have toward her.
For some, Immediate Family will air a lot of the so-called "dirty laundry" that is typically common among many African-American families; however, Stovall's script addresses it in a way that is adequate and realistic, without going too far--but with just enough to make you laugh--and more importantly, with just enough to make you think.
Immediate Family is now playing through August 5 at the Goodman's Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn; show days and times vary. Tickets are $20-$54 and are available online or at the box office; for more information, call 312-443-3800.