Straight White Men opens in a suburban living room where a father and his three sons come together for the Christmas holiday. This is a family of privilege – one who knows they are fortunate and were raised not to be macho. These men are self-aware, politically correct and politically involved, and sensitive. But what happens when a straight white man, groomed for success from childhood, forsakes his expected path? How do his peers and family react to what seems like a lack of ambition?
During the first part of the play we see men being boys – they tease and rough-house and even dance with one another. The comraderie between the actors is so tight and natural you feel that you’re eavesdropping on a family’s private moments. It is VERY funny and warm. But then the play gets meaty and begins the exploration of how straight white men really think behind their public persona. The discomfit becomes palpable.
The cast is sensational and I loved Young Jean Lee’s script and found her direction riveting – the music and the scene changes are as important to this play as the dialogue. This is the first of her plays that I’ve seen and there was a talk-back at the end of the performance. Lee explained that she writes plays that she least wants to write about people she least understands. She went on to say that in the two and a half years of collaboration and improvisation that it took to complete Straight White Men she discovered that privilege, and the expectations that come with it, are more universal than she had originally thought. This play stuck with me long after I left the theater. So if you like theater that is more ‘art’ than entertainment, yet still entertaining, I definitely recommend Straight White Men. LAR
Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company at The Public, 425 Lafayette Street
Ticket prices: $45, member price: $30
Runs thru: December 7, 2014
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission