Did you ever reflect on a memory and find yourself doubting its reality, wondering if it was just a dream, just a product of your imagination?
I was drawn to the world premiere of Andrew Hinderaker’s “I Am Going to Change the World” by the premise that its central character was graduating from the University of Chicago and interviewing with Goldman Sachs before his life took an unexpected turn. Since I graduated from the University of Chicago and embarked on a career with Goldman Sachs before my life took an unexpected turn, I needed to see how it ends. The play is driven by some powerful early twists that I won’t spoil, but under the capable direction of Jonathan Berry, it achieves a highly believable exploration of aspiration, reality and the ramifications of a mind with a mind of its own. It wasn’t long before I found myself half-wondering if I’d actually worked at the investment bank those years ago, questioning the “facts” of my life as I remember them. Reality is a fragile construct when you start to think about it.
Hinderaker’s play, brought to life by a note-perfect cast, especially Nicholas Harazin as John Chapman, the idealistic, ambitious and troubled young man at its core, manages to strew a vast collection of themes and ideas along its boulevard of broken dreams. The devastation of the loss of a home, brought on by economic forces and executed by impersonal banks. The pain of not fitting in, and the pleasure discovering other “misfits” like you. The desire to have a life that matters, to make the world a better place. The crushing weight of life falling so very short of expectations. The burden of illness, mental or physical, on the family and loved ones of those afflicted. In fact, it’s this last point that swirls around the play’s center: Even if we can’t save the world, our lives are filled with those around us who selflessly “save” us every day by making our lives better in ways big and small.
Did you ever find your life in a rut where you get up, get pounded by your job, your family, your reality, and go to bed, only to get up the next day and repeat the process like a dark version of the film “Groundhog Day”? What if someone questioned your sanity for continuing to repeat the act of masochism that life can be? Wouldn’t they be right to do so? Maybe even right now? (Brian Hieggelke)
Chicago Dramatists, 1105 West Chicago, chicagodramatists.org. Through July 1.