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STRAIGHT WHITE MEN at Steppenwolf -- My Experience
Last Edit: BroadwayTonyJ 12:35 pm EDT 04/05/21
Posted by: BroadwayTonyJ 12:25 pm EDT 04/05/21
In reply to: re: "It was an extremely unpleasant experience in several respects" - PlazaBoy 05:32 pm EDT 04/03/21

My partner and I saw Straight White Men at Steppenwolf on 2/11/17 at the small upstairs theatre. We paid $20 for our tickets and were seated in the 4th row center. The pre-show started at around 7:00 PM, the play proper at 7:30 PM. The pre-show featured loud, blaring music and two actors (listed as persons in charge named Elliott and Will) who interacted with the audience for 30 minutes. Both actors defined themselves as non-binary and used the pronoun "they" (at least for this play). Elliott Jenetopulos had originated the role at the Public Theater. We had seen Will Wilhelm previously as Zanna in Zanna, Don't! at the Music Theatre of Highland Park (Will's pronoun for that show was "he").

In the pre-show Elliott struck me as being rather butch, while Will was very flamboyant. For 30 minutes they chatted with various audience members, but particularly 20-something guys who were with girlfriends or wives. Will actually sat on the laps of these guys, played with their hair, and even kissed a couple of them. Elliott also flirted with a number of young guys, but in a more masculine, macho, somewhat aggressive way. I noticed him put his arm around some guys, there was some touching, but no lap sitting or kissing.

To me, it was obvious what was going on. The pre-show was designed to make the straight guys in the audience feel a little uncomfortable (or possibly just expose them to a different sort of experience) in the presence of their female partners. I don't recall anyone being offended. Most of the audience seemed amused by what was going on. However, I did notice one or two older couples (probably over 60) walk out.

I liked the play proper more than you. I thought it was interesting, although rather slight. Three days at Christmastime with a father getting together with his sons, all of whom on the surface seem very straight, yet there is an obvious gay subtext lurking beneath the surface at times. The play proper had 3 acts but no intermission. The two persons in charge between scenes moved furniture and helped the actors with costume changes, but had no dialogue or any other role in the play proper.

The actors playing the father and sons were all well known performers from various theatre groups in Chicago. I thought the ensemble acting was quite good for a Steppenwolf production. I actually had no idea that the show was being considered for Broadway. Reviews were mostly good to rave, with a few mixed to mildly positive.
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