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Monday, June 24, 2013

About Face Theatre's The Pride is worth celebrating (and seeing)



In the summer of 2011, Chicago's About Face Theatre produced the world premiere of Philip Dawkins' The Homosexuals, which was one of my favorite stage productions that year. Then last summer they co-produced Paul Oakley Stovall's new play, Immediate Family, which also made my annual Top 10 list of grooviest shows. Now I'm happy to report that the theatre company has given us yet another play worth celebrating (and seeing) during Gay Pride Month - Alexi Kaye Campbell's The Pride, a dark and poignant drama that shows just how far society has evolved since the pre-Stonewall days of 50+ years ago.

Set in London, The Pride tells two separate stories in different time periods with the same characters. In 1958, a handsome young man named Philip is married to Sylvia, but he is having a secret affair with Oliver. Meanwhile, in 2008, Philip has just left his cheating boyfriend Oliver, who is consoled by his best friend Sylvia. Under the expert direction of Bonnie Metzgar, the play smoothly shifts back and forth between these complicated relationships - and William Boles' simple but effective scenic design helps us to follow along.

Of course, any play would greatly suffer without a talented cast to bring to life its characters - and, fortunately, this production has four outstanding actors, including Patrick Andrews as Oliver, John Francisco as Philip, Jessie Fisher as Sylvia, and Benjamin Sprunger, who provides some amusing moments as a young hustler and a magazine editor.

The Pride has a split personality in not only its compelling storytelling, but it will also make you feel two different emotions - a deep sadness for those who once had to hide their "forbidden" love away, and a great relief that most of us no longer have to do so. And after watching this play, you will be able to say with pride that we've come a long way.

The Pride runs through July 13 at Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater (2433 N. Lincoln). Tickets are available at www.aboutfacetheatre.com or by calling the Victory Gardens Box Office at (773) 871-3000. Below is a promo for the play, in which the cast, director Bonnie Metzgar and AFT Artistic Director Andrew Volkoff discuss the good in Pride Month.

Photo by Michael Brosilow.

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