There is something unsure and unformed in this production of Richard Wesley’s play about upwardly mobile African-Americans, directed for Congo Square by Aaron Todd Douglas. The company has endured some financial and administrative challenges, and I wonder if it’s starting to bleed over into the work on stage. But I’m not sure even a bang-slam production of this material could overcome the script’s off-putting tendency to speechify. A group of friends—a generation of Howard graduates that gave rise to Black Power—are now comfortably in their forties, having traded black consciousness for the yuppie consumer dream. Bernard (Ron Conner, miscast as a former activist with a slick eye for business) is having major doubts about his career and his marriage, and he destroys both in an effort to get back to basics—or rather, the truth he felt so deeply as a radical. But too often what should be organic conversations feel like artificially induced debates about intraracial biases and whether pursuing the American dream is equal to selling out. The women in the cast are quite good, especially Ericka Ratcliff as Bernard’s on-the-side girlfriend, a driven beauty who has boiled the dance between men and women down to its essence: “The women who can do things are most prized by the men who can do nothing.” Bakesta King (as Bernard’s wife) and Tracey Bonner (as her longtime friend) get the show’s strongest scene, laying out their mutual resentments and fears while lounging in a sauna, clutching at their towels. Otherwise, the play feels stagey and stilted, lacking the kind of lived-in quality that can turn rhetoric into theater. (Nina Metz)
At the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green, (312)733-6000. This production is now closed.