“Recognizing that the original play had been written for an Obama Era audience, playwright Michael Perlman joined the Chicago cast to revise the ending for a more brutally honest, painfully raw conclusion befitting the incoming Era of Trump.”
This is what I read on the printed-out piece of paper handed to me before sitting down to view At the Table at the Berger Park Cultural Center. Off the bat, I knew this would be a dense story, but perhaps one that I had heard many times before. “Love yourself,” “embrace diversity,” and “give love a chance” were all some common phrases among the millennial crowd that came to mind. However, I was wrong. This production is a lot more critical, truthful, and complicated than these overarching expressions.
Taking place in a cabin in the woods where the characters aren’t allowed to use their cell phones already provides a foundation for some interesting conversations—not only conversations in this case, but everyone shouting over each other playfully after having too much wine. The play opens with the characters sitting at a table, mid-discussion, on the topic of abortion. Stuart (Evan Linder), who begins the play as a confrontational catalyst of controversial conversation, plays devil’s advocate making an argument for why abortion is wrong. Once Stuart asks Chris, who is a proclaimed feminist, what her take on the issue is, she retorts that the terms of discussion are defined by the people sitting at the table, and that Stuart wasn’t invited to that particular table.
As many of today’s arguments revolve around equal treatment of women, LGBT, and people of color, this statement brings many questions to the metaphorical table. The rest of the play explores these questions with a deft script and world-class acting. Each character presents many examples of this, which are then complicated by other characters. It brings to light why expressions like “embrace diversity” are a little juvenile—real modern life is much more complicated than that. Are any of us truly “embracing diversity?”
Without giving away the entire play, I would just like to praise the actors on their fantastic performances. If you guys are reading this, never stop acting!
This is an incredibly important play not only as a story, but also as a topic of conversation. There is not just one moral reading of the script, but several. You will not walk away without learning something.