Wednesday, January 31, 2018

REVIEW: Bomb Shelters and Barbecues Reign In Cold War Comedy We’re Gonna Be Okay

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

American Theater Company opens the Chicago premiere of
We’re Gonna Be Okay
Directed by Artistic Director Will Davis
Written by Basil Kreimendahl

Now playing through March 4, 2018


In a new era of bomb threats and cold war posturing in 2018, it's fascinating to see this Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy era period piece through the lens of Trump's America. We’re Gonna Be Okay is as funny as it is disturbing. I loved the unique casting choices which made the production edgy and contemporary while making the 1960's gender stereotypical roles even more glaringly apparent. This suburban dystopia is visually fun, with larger than life, playful pop art backdrops. 

The basic takeaway is, you never really know your neighbors, or yourself till you're under duress and under ground. This psychological exploration of life under the shadow of a looming missile crises, and in the close confinement of a shared shelter, is a darkly funny wake up call. The entire cast was excellent. We thoroughly enjoyed Adithi Chandrashekar (Leena), Saraí Rodriguez (Deanna), Avi Roque (Jake), Kelli Simpkins (Efran), BrittneyLove Smith (Mag) and Penelope Walker (Sul) and their portrayals of the American dream turned nightmare. The teens were particular standouts, as they  fumbled about, coming to grips with mortality, sexuality and gender identities, on the cusp of adulthood.

ATC is one of our storefront favorites, with a thought provoking, edgy lineup. They've been pushing gender identity and race assumptions in exciting, cutting edge ways, with unique casting choices. We can't wait to see what's next. 

We’re Gonna Be Okay at American Theater Company. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

American Theater Company (ATC) opens the Chicago premiere of Basil Kreimendahl’s We’re Gonna Be Okay tonight, Monday, January 29. Artistic Director Will Davis directs a cast featuring Adithi Chandrashekar (Leena), Saraí Rodriguez (Deanna), Avi Roque (Jake), Kelli Simpkins (Efran), BrittneyLove Smith (Mag) and Penelope Walker (Sul).

We’re Gonna Be Okay plays now through March 4, 2018, at American Theater Company (1909 W. Byron Street, Chicago). Single tickets are $38 and are available by calling the ATC box office at 773-409-4125 or visiting

In the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy addressed the nation, “My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out... But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.” Well, Efran and Leena and Mag and Sul are thinking about doing something. Something big. Straight from Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival of New American Plays, Basil Kreimendahl’s We’re Gonna Be Okay confronts the fears of the American middle class as two families wrestle with macrame, female empowerment and a shared property line.

Performance schedule:
Press Opening: Monday, January 29 at 7 p.m.
Regular Run: Feb. 1- March 4: Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. (except for Feb. 3) and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.

Adithi Chandrashekar (Leena) is an actor and writer based in Chicago. She has most recently worked with The Hypocrites, Jackalope Theatre, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company and Silk Road Rising. Adithi is currently working on her one actor/multi-media ensemble driven play, Open Season, which was the inaugural project selected to pilot The Gift Theatre Company's 4802 Residency, the theater's new play research and development wing. Adithi is a proud 2015 graduate of the School at Steppenwolf, and has trained at the Second City Training Center, iO Theater, Green Shirt Studios and the Acting Studio Chicago. She has appeared on ABC's Betrayal and NBC's Chicago Med. Adithi is represented by Stewart Talent Agency.

Saraí Rodriguez (Deanna) thanks you for making the time to come see this show, her first production back at ATC since Men on Boats. Chicago theatre companies she has worked with include: The Hypocrites, Victory Gardens, Teatro Vista, Steep Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, First Floor Theater, Emerald City Theatre Co., and even a few defunct ones, too. She is proudly represented by Gray Talent.

Avi Roque (Jake) (Gender Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs) is beyond thrilled to be returning to American Theater Company and working with Will Davis! Avi, a San Francisco native, received their B.A. in Theatre from California State University, Fullerton, and moved to Chicago to nurture their artistic spirit. Today, Avi is proud to say that they are a multi-disciplinary artist and a Latinx gender non-conforming/trans individual. Their most recent credits include: Men on Boats (American Theater Company) and The Crucible (Steppenwolf For Young Adults). They also recently worked with Damon Kiely as Assistant Director for Boy (TimeLine Theatre Company). Avi is a company member with Collaboraction, First Floor Theater and Pride Films & Plays. They are represented by Gray Talent.

Kelli Simpkins (Efran) is a company member of Tectonic Theater Project and is one of the original creator/performers of The Laramie Project directed by Moises Kaufman (Off-Broadway, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep., LaJolla Playhouse). Theater credits: Charm at MCC in NY, directed by Will Davis; T. and Men on Boats at ATC; The Secretaries, The Kid Thing (Jeff nomination: Principle Actor), Execution of Justice and Pony at About Face Theater; Cocked at Victory Gardens; Spill (dramaturg/performer) at EST and Timeline Theater; Teddy Ferrara at Goodman Theatre; In Darfur at Timeline; Late: A Cowboy Song at Piven; Celebrity Row at ATC; Fair Use, Good Boys and True and One Arm at Steppenwolf Theatre; The People’sTemple at the Guthrie, Perseverance and Berkeley Rep.; I Think I Like Girls at LaJolla and Cherry Lane. Directing credits: Good Death, an original play that she directed and co-wrote with students at Western Michigan University. Film/TV credits: Slice, Chicago Fire, Patriot, Betrayal, A League of Their Own, Chasing Amy, Law & Order: C.I. and HBO’s The Laramie Project (Emmy nomination: Ensemble Writing). Kelli is a proud recipient of a 2013 Chicago 3Arts Award.

BrittneyLove Smith (Mag) is glad to be back at ATC. BrittneyLove was most recently Prix in Eclipse Theatre's production of Breath Boom. BrittneyLove was also Jane Eyre in both the original and remounted production of the Hypocrites production of You On The Moors Now. She was Bradley in ATC's Men On Boats. She also appeared in Secretaries (About Face Theatre) and the four-time Jeff nominated production of Charm (Northlight Theatre) over at the Steppenwolf garage. BrittneyLove played Salima in the critically acclaimed and Jeff nominated production of Ruined (Eclipse Theatre company) earning her a BTAA nomination for Best Supporting Actor. She recently appeared in the new Nash Edgerton feature Film Gringo. You can hear her on the WBEZ podcast series Pleasure Town where she is a series regular.

Penelope Walker (Sul) is happy to return to ATC to work with Artistic Director Will Davis. She last worked at ATC with former Artistic Director PJ Paparelli on The Project(s), Agnes of God & Doubt. Also at ATC she did People's Temple. Recent Chicago credits include: A Christmas Carol, The Story, Crowns and Wit; The House That Will Not Stand at Victory Gardens Theatre; Love & Information at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company; Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England at Theatre Wit; Will You Stand Up? at Erasing the Distance; Laura Jacqmin’s 10 Virgins and Lydia R. Diamond’s world premiere production of Voyeurs de Venus at Chicago Dramatists; Eclipsed, Gee’s Bend and Bee-luther-Hatchee at Northlight Theatre; Life Sucks & J. Nicole Brooks’ world premiere production of Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten at Lookingglass Theatre Company; Don DeLillo’s Love Lies Bleeding at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and the Kennedy Center; Omnium Gatherum at Next Theatre Company; Chris-T at MPAACT; The Clink at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble and Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery at Chicago Theatre Company. She also wrote and starred in her own solo piece, How I Jack Master Funked the Sugar in My Knee Caps! Ms. Walker has appeared regionally with the Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, Hartford Stage and the Alley Theatre. She has appeared in national commercials and voice overs. She was in the web series Matching Pursuit; the television pilot SouthSide for Comedy Central; Chicago Justice and Chicago Fire for NBC; Showtime's Boss; the feature film Olympia: An Instruction Manual for How Things Work, Severed Ties; and the film short Something Better Somewhere Else.

Basil Kreimendahl (Playwright) is a resident playwright at New Dramatists. Their plays have won several awards, including the Rella Lossy Playwright Award and a National Science Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Kreimendahl has been commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s American Revolutions program, and by Actors Theatre of Louisville for Remix 38 (2014 Humana Festival). Their play Orange Julius was developed at the 2012 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and will have its New York premiere at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, in a co-production with P73. Kreimendahl’s plays have also been produced or developed by New York Theatre Workshop, American Theater Company, Victory Gardens Theater, The Lark, La Jolla Playhouse, and Labyrinth Theater Company. They have been a Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellow and McKnight Fellow, won an Art Meets Activism grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and will be a visiting writer at Williams College in 2017. Kreimendahl’s work has been published by Dramatic Publishing and HowlRound. They received their M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 2013.

Will Davis (Director) is a trans-identified director and choreographer focused on physically adventurous new work and old plays in new ways. He is also the artistic director of American Theater Company (ATC). Recent and upcoming projects include: Bobbie Clearly by Alex Lubischer for The Roundabout; Charm by Philip Dawkins for MCC; Welcome to Jesus by Janine Nabers for ATC; a queer re-imagining of Picnic by William Inge for ATC; Evita, re-conceived for the Olney Theatre Center, for which he received a Helen Hayes Nomination for Best Direction; Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus for Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks, Playwrights Horizons and ATC, for which he received a Lucille Lortel Nomination for Best Direction; Duat by Daniel Alexander Jones for Soho Rep; Mike Iveson’s SORRY ROBOT for PS122’s COIL Festival; and two productions of Colossal by Andrew Hinderaker for Mixed Blood Theater and the Olney Theatre Center, for which he won a Helen Hayes award for outstanding direction. Davis has developed, directed and performed his work with NYSF, New York Theatre Workshop, Clubbed Thumb, the New Museum, the Olney Theatre Center, the Alliance Theatre, the Playwright’s Realm, the Fusebox Festival, the Orchard Project, the Ground Floor Residency at Berkeley Rep and the Kennedy Center. He is an alum of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, the NYTW 2050 Directing Fellowship and the BAX (Brooklyn Art Exchange) artist in residence program. He is a member of the TCG board and the Jubilee planning committee. He holds a BFA in Theatre Studies from DePaul University and an MFA in Directing from UT Austin.

About American Theater Company
American Theater Company (ATC) challenges and inspires its community by exploring stories that ask the question, "What does it mean to be an American?" ATC’s Ensemble includes Patrick Andrews, Kareem Bandealy, Jaime Castañeda, Kelly O’Sullivan, Tyler Ravelson, and Sadieh Rifai.

American Theater Company is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince, the Shubert Foundation, ArtsWork Fund, Actors’ Equity Foundation, The Pauls Foundation and Robert & Isabelle Bass Foundation.

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