NUNN'S THEATER HABIT
The things we never tell each other is told through music
Tue. August 24, 2021 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn
The Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, has reopened with a fresh brand and a new production. Formerly Pride Films and Plays, PrideArts can now encompass everything under one roof and is no longer limited to two styles of performance. Cheers to a new gay dance troupe that can now be included in the mix!
There is now expanded room for the audience with more comfortable seats, better lighting and an upgraded green room for the cast. This is thanks to an anonymous donor that believes in the original vision of this Chicago LGBTQ+ organization. After some shake-ups, there's a newly hired executive producer, Jay Espano, who introduced the latest production of Things I Could Never Tell Steven on opening night.
Australian playwright Jye Bryant has a unique way to tell a story with four characters that depict Steven without him ever being seen onstage. A mother, father, wife and secret lover all sing their feelings in the four separate corners of the set. This lends itself to having four-part harmonies and using a soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Bryant usually has the quartet singing individual solos though or singing in rounds together.
The cast chooses to focus on the emotion of the song sometimes over hitting the correct notes, but this can be tricky for any performer to balance. PrideArts has hired a diverse cast that skillfully played characters very different than their real-life identities. It sets the tone as to what will come in the future for the newly revamped team on Broadway Avenue.
Steven's wife is played by Elissa Newcorn, who stands out in the cast and just oozes talent. Kyra Leigh, Steven's mother, has some humorous moments and both Carl Herzog, as Steven's father, and Steven's ex-lover, Nate Hall, hit the emotional mark of the story.
By telling the tale through outsiders, Bryant forces us to ask ourselves questions. "How much do others know us?" "What kind of story will our loves ones tell about one day?" "Do others perceptions of us necessarily make it true?"
Will we ever really know Steven? We only get a chance to within 75 minutes and no intermission. Maybe Steven deserves a sequel to answer these questions and more. This could be a new modern take with an updated timeline. The play is set in the '80s with answering machines and landlines, but suddenly there is the GrindR app and texting, to take us out of that time period.
The stage setting would even work well in the round with each of the four corners being a different character. The physical distance could add to the separation of the individual characters. Music director Robert Ollis plays piano from above in the center of the stage keeping the music moving throughout the production.
After the recent trying times of being distant and only talking on phones to our loved ones, Things I Could Never Tell Steven is a perfect fit for 2021. Human connection is more important than ever these days and Steven shines when those moments are highlighted in the show.
Learn more about Steven from now until September 19. For tickets and information, visit PrideArts.org or call 773-857-0222.