Best Non-Musical Theatre in Chicago! Familiar at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through January 13, 2019)

A family all comes home to Minnesota for the marriage of one of the daughters. The parents immigrated from Zimbabwe. As a surprise, the bride invited her mother’s sister to fly in from Africa for the wedding. Her sister insists on performing the traditional ceremony, a Roora, where the families negotiate a payment for taking their daughter in marriage. The mother strongly opposes this tradition which leads to a lot of tension. The drama continues to build as some major family secrets are revealed.

This play tackles some very heavy issues for immigrants. A very strong one is how to balance keeping their culture alive while also becoming American. The decision whether or not to teach their children their native language is a difficult one. There is also the question of when to tell children about their history involving issues they wouldn’t understand when they are young.

This play is extremely well written by Danai Gurira. She was born in the US to Zimbabwean parents and raised in Zimbabwe. Thus, this is clearly a very personally relevant story for her. She is also a rising actor. She plays “General Okoye” in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War and Michonne on AMC’s The Walking Dead.

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The cast is absolutely fantastic. Celeste M. Cooper (BLKS, The Doppelganger) is excellent as the sister of the bride, the feng shui teacher. She has great chemistry with Luigi Sottile as the groom’s brother. Cheryl Lynn Bruce is so strong as Aunt Anne, the mother’s sister. It’s clear she isn’t going to let the Zim traditions be forgotten without a fight. Ora Jones (The Roommate) is equally strong as the mother which makes for quite a matchup.

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The set is quite impressive. They basically built a two story house on the stage and completely furnished it as if a family had been living there for years. Steppenwolf clearly puts a high value on their set design and it pays off.

At the very end of the play, Celeste M. Cooper plays a beautiful song called “Familiar” that brought the audience to tears. Sometimes shows at the Steppenwolf end strangely, but this was a fantastic close to the show! Once again, Steppenwolf proves they are the home for the best non-musical theatre in Chicago!

Get tickets now for Familiar through January 13, 2019!

Quinn Delaney

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