Tuesday, February 18, 2014

ACT OUT OPENING: Buzzer at The Goodman

ChiIL Live Shows will be there for the press opening tonight.  Check back with us shortly for a full review.

L to R) Shane Kenyon (Don), Lee Stark (Suzy) and Eric Lynch (Jackson) in Buzzer by Tracey Scott Wilson, directed by Jessica Thebus at Goodman Theatre (February 8 - March 9, 2014).

Love, race and class take center stage in Buzzer, Tracey Scott Wilson’s intimate, darkly comic 21st-century exploration of the effects of a changing neighborhood on three cohabitating twenty-somethings—“a study of sex and the city in post-racial times” (Minneapolis Star Tribune). The trio is forced to confront the racial and sexual tensions that exist both inside their home and outside their apartment in a changing Brooklyn neighborhood. 
As previously announced, the cast of director Jessica Thebus’ Chicago-premiere production includes Eric Lynch (Broken Fences at 16th Street Theatre, Blacktop Sky at Theatre Seven, part of Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep); Lee Stark (The Iceman Cometh, Disgraced at American Theater Company); and Shane Kenyon (Big Love at Strawdog Theatre Company, Trainspotting USA with Book and Lyrics Theatricals). Buzzer runs February 8 – March 9 in the Owen Theatre; opening night is Tuesday, February 18. Tickets ($10 - $40; subject to increase) are available at, by phone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office (170 North Dearborn). Bank of America is the Owen Season Sponsor, the Goodman Scenemakers Board is a Sponsor Partner and Heidrick & Struggles is a Contributing Sponsor. A performance calendar follows.
“Tracey has made a name for herself through her incisive, explosive dramas that deal with issues surrounding the contemporary African American experience. Her terrific new play, Buzzer, opens the door for thoughtful discourse about the conversations we have—or don’t have—about race, class and how best to treat each other,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls.
Hailed a "singular new voice" by the New Yorker, Wilson's work has been seen at venues across the country; the Goodman has produced The Story (2005) and The Good Negro (2010), both directed by Chuck Smith, and Buzzer was included in the 2012 New Stages festival, directed by Thebus. A co-commission of Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater and Pillsbury House Theater, Buzzer made its world premiere at the Pillsbury House in 2012; critics unanimously endorsed the play as timely, important and simultaneously hilarious and tragic. It was remounted in a sold-out run at the Guthrie in 2013, directed by Marion McClinton.
“I have lived in neighborhoods that have been gentrified, and I have gentrified neighborhoods; the issue is always there,” said Tracey Scott Wilson. “The characters in Buzzer are of a generation that has been raised on the Disney Channel, in a very multicultural world where Beyoncé and Jay-Z are considered the biggest stars. It’s very different from someone who grew up when there were not many black characters on TV. Especially in the ‘post-racial Obama age’ we’re entering, there are the things we are supposed to say, the things we actually say and the things we really believe.”
The neighborhood and its newest residents’ emotional entanglement take a toll, and the apartment becomes a kind of crucible in which the ever-present urban landscape has devastating results.
Buzzer follows three young people as they move into a newly-rehabilitated building—one with broken buzzers—in a lower-class, urban neighborhood that is grappling with the effects of gentrification and can be dangerous. Jackson (Eric Lynch), a successful African American attorney who grew up in this neighborhood, has returned home, determined to enjoy its renaissance and build a life there. Having attended Exeter, then Harvard and Harvard Law School, Jackson managed to avoid much of the neighborhood’s strife in his younger years. Suzy (Lee Stark), his girlfriend and a teacher at a tough inner-city school, and his troubled boyhood best friend Don (Shane Kenyon)—both white, and who have a history of their own—move in with him. Don hails from a privileged background, but has extensively battled drug addiction; as a result, he is more street-smart than Jackson.

Director Jessica Thebus, who previously directed Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House and Stage Kiss for the Goodman, works with Wilson for the first time. “Tracey challenges our assumptions; we’re surprised and invigorated by her argument, and we’re illuminated by the intimacy of this story. The economy of just these three very real people invites you to ask yourself, who am I judging and why? Who’s doing what? Whose side am I on? And you’re not sure quite where to position yourself as the story unwinds.”

The design team for Buzzer—Walt Spangler (set), John Culbert (lights), Mikhail Fiksel (sound) and Birgit Rattenborg Wise (costumes)—incorporates elements of Wilson’s former Brooklyn neighborhood to create a realistic setting. Added Thebus, “Don, Jackson, and Suzy are always dealing with the outside, which feels a little unstable. From the cars driving by—questioning, ‘was that a car backfire or was that a gunshot?’—to the guys on the corner to the radio, we have extraordinary designers who will make us feel like the presence of that neighborhood is there.”

(L to R) Shane Kenyon (Don) and Eric Lynch (Jackson) in Buzzer by Tracey Scott Wilson, directed by Jessica Thebus at Goodman Theatre (February 8 - March 9, 2014).

Following each Wednesday performance of Buzzer, stay for a discussion about the play with members of the artistic team. Goodman Theatre | FREE
Mingle with cast members and Goodman artists in the theater’s rehearsal space before and after a performance of Buzzer. Thursday, March 6, 6pm Reception / 7:30pm Performance | Goodman Theatre | $60
Tickets to Buzzer ($10 – $40; subject to change) are on sale at Tickets and subscriptions, including the Goodman WILD CARD and “Great Women at Play” package, can also be purchased at the box office (170 North Dearborn) or by phone at 312.443.3800. 
Mezztix are half-price mezzanine tickets available at 12 noon at the box office, and at 10am online (promo code MEZZTIX) day of performance; Mezztix are not available by telephone. 10Tix are $10 rear mezzanine tickets for students available any time for the Owen Theatre; 10Tix are not available by telephone; a valid student I.D. must be presented when picking up the tickets; limit four per student with I.D. All tickets are subject to availability and handling fees apply. Discounted Group Tickets for 15 persons or more are available at 312.443.3820. Purchase Goodman Gift Certificates in any amount at The flexibility of Goodman Gift Certificates allows recipients to choose the production, date and time of their performance. Artists, dates and ticket prices are subject to change.

About Goodman Theatre
The Goodman’s 2013/2014 Season features 9 productions on its two stages—six in the 856-seat Albert Theatre and three in the 400-seat flexible Owen Theatre, plus the annual New Stages series that includes two additional workshop productions. Productions still to come include the world premiere of Luna Gale by Rebecca Gilman, directed by Robert Falls (January 18 – February 23, 2014 in the Albert); Buzzer by Tracey Scott Wilson, directed by Jessica Thebus (February 8 – March 9, 2014 in the Owen); the Chicago premiere of Venus in Fur by David Ives, directed by Joanie Schultz (March 8 – April 13, 2014 in the Albert); the Chicago premiere of The White Snake written and directed by Mary Zimmerman (May 3 – June 8, 2014 in the Albert); the world-premiere Goodman commission of Ask Aunt Susan by Seth Bockley, directed by Henry Wishcamper (May 24 – June 22, 2014 in the Owen); and a major revival of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s Brigadoon, directed by Rachel Rockwell (June 27 – August 3, 2014 in the Albert).
Goodman Theatre is world renowned for the quality and scope of its artistic programming and its commitment to improving life in the community. Artistic Director Robert Falls’ and Executive Director Roche Schulfer’s leadership has earned unparalleled artistic distinction and experienced unprecedented success, staging more than 80 world premieres, earning numerous awards for its productions—including the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre (1992) and the Pulitzer Prize for Ruined (2009)—and producing more than 25 new-work commissions. Founded in 1925 and housed in a state-of- the-art two-theater complex in the downtown Chicago Theatre District, the Goodman is Chicago’s oldest and largest not-for- profit producing theater, named “Best Regional Theatre” by Time magazine and “top dog of the Chicago theater scene” by Frommer’s. American Airlines is the Exclusive Airline of Goodman Theatre. Ruth Ann M. Gillis is Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Sherry John is President of the Women’s Board and Lauren Blair is President of the Scenemakers Board, the Goodman’s young professionals auxiliary group.

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