Goodman Theatre Presents
Support Group For Men
Written By Ellen Fairey
Directed by Kimberly Senior
Jun 23 – Jul 29, 2018
It is said that men are imprisoned in an outdated, suffocating cycle of “masculinity” where their manhood is continuously challenged. There are preconceived notions of how a man should act, look and sound. There are also notions that men shouldn’t ever show their emotions, which is an ever-ending dilemma. Strength, not vulnerability, measures manhood! “Men don’t cry,” and they definitely don’t talk about their personal feelings to anyone, especially in a support group. That would be a sign of femininity and weakness. Better to man up and shake off whatever is bothering you because looking for someone to support you is not masculine.
Playwright Ellen Fairey, who began writing “Support Group For Men”, almost eight years ago introduces us to this crisis where men feel isolated and lonely. In a world where everything has changed, we meet four friends who come together every Thursday in the Wrigleyville area to talk about the challenges they are facing in life. They have a strict policy: “No Ladies” allowed. However, an unexpected guest crashes their party and their beliefs as to what it means to be a man in today’s society get overturned with a new outlook regarding masculinity.
The support group meets in an apartment above a bar on the corner of Clark and Roscoe Streets, near Wrigleyville and Boystown. These men share their issues without being judgmental and seek to form an unbreakable bond. Brian (Ryan Kitley), a middle-aged man and works at an Apple store, is in a perfect relationship with a woman who is young enough to be considered his daughter; spearheads the group. He fears his relationship is too good to be true and his friends know it won’t last. Delano (Anthony Irons), is the only man in the group who is married and his wife is sick and tells him to have an affair so he can satisfy his needs. He is also Brian’s longtime Black friend. There is also Roger (Keith Kupferer), who cleans the Cloud Gate, the Chicago sculpture by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor, famously known as The Bean in Millennium Park. Roger has never been married, which is not by his choice. Kupferer was brilliant in this role. Completing the group is Kevin (Tommy Rivera), a tech guy who also loves teaching salsa dancing. He reveals a secret to the men that stunned them and none of them can fully understand.
The group has this bizarre ritual where they use Native American names, which in today’s world could be construed as being insensitive, and use a sacred baseball bat as the means of communicating. To speak, each man must request the bat, and after they finish speaking, they proceed to do a pow-wow chant. They talk about different subjects ranging from gender, the #MeToo Movement, racism and police violence.
There is a window nearby, and the men hear a commotion and see a woman being beaten; so they run out to help her. To their surprise, Alex, a cross-dressing man appears in Brian’s apartment; this brings up a conversation about what it truly means to be a man and what is considered a man. Alex too is experiencing the need of support and the men reluctantly allow him to share his issues. Then the support group, being enlightened by Alex, seeks to include him. To celebrate, Brian shares a little herb and the support group turns into a wild party.
Two other actors, Sadieh Rifai (Officer Caruso) and Eric Slater (Officer Nowak), complete the cast. The entire cast works well together, and the stage setup was excellent and helps realistically bring the audience into the play.
“Support Group For Men” is a play that seeks to deconstruct male insecurities, especially about sex and gender; it’s a clever idea and opens the door to a deeper understanding of the changing world we live in today. Having an all-male cast that discusses the issues of being a man from a woman’s perspective seem to be an oxymoron; however, Fairey who is a seasoned pro, does a good job pulling it off; balancing the problematic task of straight and gender pronouns.
“Support Group For Men” is a funny and realistic story about men needing support and how they view life as a man in today’s society.
Let’s Play recommends seeing this Goodman Theatre play.
The cast includes:
Tommy Rivera-Vega (Kevin)
Ryan Kitley (Brian)
Keith Kupferer (Roger)
Anthony Irons (Delano)
Sadieh Rifai (Officer Caruso)
Eric Slater (Officer Nowak)