America does not talk openly or easily about matters of race, and it is not surprise that this play-in-monologues by J.T. Rogers falls into a trap of good intentions and obvious choices. A professor, a housewife and a corporate attorney—all white, and all grappling with their politically incorrect but deeply felt biases—alternately tell their stories. Each culminates in tragedy, which feels like a narrative contrivance rather than the stuff of life. Racism—or the less-overtly hostile assumptions we make based on racial stereotypes—isn’t so much about dramatic turning moments as it is a facet of daily life. Only the attorney goes beyond surface predictability. As played by John Kelly Connolly (who finds a nice balance between yuppie assurance and nagging doubt), he is a guy from a blue-collar background keenly attuned to the subtleties of social Darwinism. “I’m not trying to be ugly here,” he says at one point, “I’m just trying to make a point.” He is both aware and unaware. That’s a telling observation. Otherwise, the Gift Theatre production, directed by Michael Patrick Thornton, elevates the material beyond its limitations—the play is getting a better show than it deserves. Even the white-on-white American flag draped on stage says more than the script itself. (Nina Metz)
At the Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee, (773)283-7071. This production is now closed.