By John Quinn
Review: ‘Fourth Sunday In June’
Reflections on identity highlight Chicago theater’s recognition of Pride Month
Rest assured, we will go the distance to keep you up-to-date on the latest theater scene. In this case, the distance was to Chicago, where I endured people sneaking into my room to fold points in my bath tissue to bring you tidings of Chicago theater’s salute to Pride Month.
As part of its 16th Annual Pride Festival, Bailiwick Repertory presents “Fourth Sunday In June,” Jonathan Tolins’s post-modern take on the “gay play.” The time is Pride Sunday (hence the title, folks); the place is an apartment on Christopher St., where the sounds of the New York Pride parade form an underscore to the dialogue. On this, the seventh anniversary of the day they met, Tom and Michael contemplate their last Pride Day as New Yorkers – they’re moving to Long Island to join the happy couples in Suburbia. Into their home comes a string of friends, mainly for the view of the parade from their windows. Add a little conflict, a little reflection on “gay tradition” and you’ve got theater!
Tobins is obviously mimicking earlier LGBT pieces; most notably the granddaddy of them all, Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band.” But what is “Fourth Sunday” -homage or antithesis? Tobins is too wrapped up with the originals. In fact, he has employed a coy and sometimes annoying running gag – one character or another will opine, “If this were a gay play we’d be saying/doing/expecting (fill in the blank).” But in his comparison to past works, is he saying, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” or “The more things change, the more they stay the same?” I saw the show and can’t answer that. I don’t know if Tobins can.
I’m just grateful that the eight characters have, for the most part, given up the maudlin self-loathing that marked earlier works. But is it too much to ask that playwrights might at least entertain the possibility that well-adjusted homosexuals and happy same-sex couples might actually exist?
While the script is full of peppery zingers, crisp one-liners and ponderous epigrams, what is missing is depth. Caught up in the medium, he missed the message. He forgot to give his characters souls.
How fortunate that director Jay Paul Skelton and his crew of eight talented actors have managed to reach down into THEIR souls to bring some real interest to the production. Of special note is Stephan Rader as Tom, the young schoolteacher in our “perfect” couple, who has the unenviable but thoroughly successful task of breathing life into an underwritten part.
A tip of the hat, too, to John Cardone as their arch and witty friend Brad, who’s desperately holding on to his fading youth. Cardone does not play to the stereotype and never slips over the line from sly to bitchy.
While “Fourth Sunday In June” may not be our signature play for the 21st century, at least it is providing an acceptable evening of entertainment until the great one comes along.
“Last Sunday In June” Staged Thursday through Sunday in the Bailiwick Arts Center Mainstage, 1229 West Belmont, Chicago, through July 25. Tickets: $15 – $25. 773-883-1090. www.bailiwick.org.
The Bottom Line: Bailiwick’s talented director and cast redeem an otherwise aimless script.