“Well, I don’t think I set out to find out what topic I can upset people about this time. I just think that what is dramatic is what is uncomfortable.”
–Bruce Norris (see page 18)
Just as your languid summer downshifts into lazy mode and skies seem clear and carefree, it’s time to get the helmet, visor, and flak jacket back on.
The pin has been pulled and the latest hand grenade from Bruce Norris has just rolled to a gentle stop on the lobby floor of Chicago’s hallowed Steppenwolf Theatre. Norris’s new play THE QUALMS will start detonating tonight at its first preview and continue blowing up through August 31.
A new play by ensemble member Norris at Steppenwolf enjoys a certain home field advantage and is always reason to celebrate. The Chicago theatre has premiered seven of this Texan Brooklynite’s sharp and caustic dramas over the years, and in the words of Artistic Director Martha Lavey, “He is one of our guys.” But most of those were before the stratospheric success of CLYBOURNE PARK, which took New York, London and just about every other English-speaking town by storm in 2009-11.
Since then the busy playwright has written A PARALLELOGRAM (2010), an unsettling and strangely under-produced exploration of whether knowing your fate would give you any ability to change it, THE LOW ROAD (2013), a vast and sprawling but somewhat unsatisfying (at least on the page) parable of capitalism at the Royal Court, and DOMESTICATED (2013) at Lincoln Center, a very sharp exploration of a politician’s downfall via sex scandal that focuses right in on a key issue of our time but does not quite go “over the top” theatrically in the way CLYBOURNE PARK does.
So maybe it’s time for him to really pop one for the home town audience.
Billed as a “comedy” (which may mean something slightly different in Norrisland), the subject this time is somewhat lighter (possibly) than usual: monogamy and partner-swapping, and “the eternal struggle for power, status and getting laid.”
View the program, which includes “Sex, Status & Creating Discomfort”, a conversation between Norris and Martha Lavey.
Directed by Pam MacKinnon
Paul Oakley Stovall
All photos by Joel Moorman