IMMEDIATE FAMILY: A NEW AMERICAN PLAY

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On the heels of President Obama’s recent political stance, some Americans continue to struggle with the simple idea of homosexuality and gay marriage.

On the heels of President Obama’s recent political stance, some Americans continue to struggle with the simple idea of homosexuality and gay marriage. Since many have come forward in opposition of gay marriage as an unnatural union, can we really live in a society that accepts people for who they are no matter what lifestyle they choose? Are we ready to confront the realities of this existence in our own backyards? The Goodman Theatre in association with About Face Theatre confronts these questions in their latest production – “Immediate Family” – written by Paul Oakley Stovall and directed by The Cosby Show’s Phylicia Rashad.

Set on Chicago’s Southside at the home of the Bryant family, this rich and sensitive story is surprisingly filled with excitement and humor. The oldest Bryant sibling, Evy, is the conservative head of the family with strong family and cultural pride. She is the primary resident of the home, left to her by the sibling’s parents (and her estranged husband). Evy’s brother, Tony, is a fun loving young man. He also holds tight to his family and has a strong desire to ‘keep the peace’ considering it is the weekend of his wedding. Ronnie, who has traveled far to be a part of this special weekend of wedding bliss, is definitely a blood member of the Bryant family. But she struggles in her relationship – particularly to Evy- and finds resolve in a sleugh of alcoholic drinks. Evy’s other brother, Jesse, arrives in town after several distant years. Reserved, yet full of life, he comes bearing bags of secrets. His ‘friend’, Kristian, also arrives as the wedding photographer. Although initially afraid to reveal the truth of his relationship to Kristian, Jesse ultimately confronts the root of his fear. He ultimately discloses his secrets and reasons for his departure. Last but certainly not least is the fun and boisterous neighbor – Nina – who is a much needed comic relief. She is a long time neighbor to the Bryant family and takes on the familiar role of a ‘play cousin’.

The ensemble of actors bring to life a joyous walk down memory lane for many of us who have sat around the living room table telling jokes, playing bid whiz, and simply enjoying the company of family. Actors J. Nicole Brooks, Shanesia Davis, Phillip James Brannon, Cynda Williams (Mo’ Better Blues), Kamal Angelo Bolden, and Patrick Sarb give brilliant performances. It is also a true gift to see the creative and genius direction by Ms. Phylicia Rashad. But what’s most precious is the playwright’s (Paul Oakley Stovall) insurmountable courage to tackle the subject of being gay and Black. Regardless of the position one may take on gay marriage, homosexuality, or race relations, “Immediate Family” is well worth attending. The journey toward truth and happiness is something we can all relate. This production is a reflection of that type of voyage. At the very least, it is a path of self-reflection. “Immediate Family” runs through Aug. 5 at the Goodman.

Copyright 2012 Chicago Defender

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