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Theater Sun Jun 23 2013

Time Shifts Emphasize Change in The Pride at About Face Theatre

The Pride is set in two eras, 50 years and eons of attitudes apart.The title reflects how societal and political changes have affected gay people and their straight friends over the years. About Face Theatre times this perspective on gay life to coincide with the 44th Annual Chicago Pride Week.

It's written by English writer Alexi Kay Campbell in a series of scenes occurring in the two time frames. Director Bonnie Metzger, who manages this flow admirably, also directed Philip Dawkins' play The Homosexuals for About Face in 2011. That play described the lives of gay Chicagoans in the 21st century.

ThePride-AboutFace-GB.jpg

John Francisco, Patrick Andrews and Jessie Fisher in The Pride; photo by Michael Brosilow.

The time-shifting scenes in The Pride are set in London in 1958 and 2008; the players are two sets of characters who each have the same names in both time periods: Oliver (Patrick Andrews), Philip (John Francisco) and Sylvia (Jessie Fisher).The seeming emphasis on the names heightens our awareness of the societal changes that enable the modern Oliver, for instance, to live his life in a different way than the other Oliver could have.

As the play opens, Oliver, a successful author of children's books, arrives at the home of Sylvia, his illustrator, and meets her husband, Philip, a conservative estate agent. Philip and Oliver have a tentative, quietly flirtatious introduction and in a later scene, we learn they had an affair. Sylvia's pain, as she learns about her closeted husband, is palpable. She asks whether Oliver still sees Philip. "No," he says. "It was his choice." Sylvia asks "Was he ever happy?" "Once...," says Oliver.

The contemporary scenes portray the second Oliver as a journalist. This version of Sylvia is his friend, who tries to convince him that his apparent addiction to having sex with strangers in public places is a bad idea. Philip is Oliver's sometime lover, who can't tolerate his addiction to casual sex.

Benjamin Sprunger does an excellent job playing interesting side characters. He is a doctor practicing aversion therapy and orienting Philip to the "gay cure" he is about to undergo in 1958. Later he plays Peter, a magazine editor who invites journalist Oliver to write an article on "gay sex for straight men." Peter's theory is that straight men would be just as promiscuous as gay men if sex with women was equally available.

If you're not aware of the time-shifting approach taken by the play (and the playbill fails to define time or location), you might find the characters, their duplicated names and changing situations somewhat confusing.

William Boles' set design creates interesting set transitions. The formal parlor set of Sylvia and Philip's flat in 1958 gradually changes to a contemporary setting, sometimes an interior, sometimes a park, and furniture and props disappear, one by one. Characters change costumes to become their '50 years earlier or later' doppelgangers in a translucent cube at center left of stage. Is the translucence meant to suggest the evanescence of time?

The play is well written and the dialogue is sharp; however, one flaw is that characters do not seem equally fleshed out in the two storylines. In the 1958 scenes, Philip, Oliver and Sylvia all are complete personalities with their own needs and joys, but the 2008 scenes belong to Oliver, who did not live through the repression of the 50s, yet, seems to thrive on the freedom of his era. The new Sylvia is reflected mainly in her attempts to save Oliver from himself, while Philip is a shadow of a character.

The play is announced as running a little over two hours with intermission and on the night I saw it, it ran two and a half hours and it definitely dragged in spots. It would benefit from some judicious tightening in the later scenes.

~*~

The Pride runs until July 13 in the Richard Christiansen Theatre at Victory Gardens, 2433 N Lincoln. Performances are at 7:30pm Thursday and Friday, 5 and 9pm Saturday and 5pm Sunday. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online or by calling 773-871-3000.

 
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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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