About Face Theatre is celebrating the kick-off LGBTQ Pride Month with the Chicago premiere of the Olivier Award-winning drama "The Pride" by Alexi Kaye Campbell and directed by Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar.
It is playing now until July 13 at Victory Gardens in the upstairs Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago and features a four-person cast with About Face Theatre's artistic associates Patrick Andrews, John Francisco and Benjamin Sprunger joined by Jessie Fisher.
The two and half hour production has two story lines, set 50 years apart.
Based in London, Campbell's time-shifting play can be slightly perplexing to follow, while toggling contrasting time-frames as it maps the progression of the gay rights movement from the repression of the 1950s to the freedom of today, through the fate of two twisted love triangles.
It opens in 1958, with Philip, played as prim, cool and reserved by Francisco, and his marriage to Sylvia, as portrayed with a proper stiff upper lip by Fisher. Oliver is played by the ever-together Andrews, who is riveting as a man plunged into the recesses of his own soul and desires.
The 2008 fast-forward has the re-imagined Oliver character addicted to risky sexual encounters with strangers, with the Philip role cast as his leaving lover and mutual friend Sylvia around trying to mend the relationship bridge. Be warned, the first act includes a violent rape scene that might be unsettling for some members of the audience.
Sprunger showcases his talent of dual roles, seamlessly straddling identities spanning a straight-line psychologist to a hired call-boy. While some of the written characterization is hard to believe and few of the exchanges seem like a stretch, the themes and messages remain important and well-constructed.
"The Pride" is Campbell's first play. It premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in November 2008 and was awarded the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement, The Critic's Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright and The John Whiting Award for Best New Play. The play was produced at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York in January 2010 and was nominated for Best Play by the Outer Critics Circle. His second play, "Apologia," was produced at The Bush Theatre in London in June 2009 and was nominated Best Play at the Writer's Guild Awards. As an actor Alexi Kaye Campbell has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Court, Chichester Festival Theatre, Oxford Stage Company and Shared Experience.
The production team for "The Pride" includes a versatile set by William Boles, Mieka van der Ploeg's costume design, Becca Jeffords' lighting, Stephen Ptacek on sound and Jamie Karas with a stellar and pin-point eye for props design.
John Tovar does fight choreography and Anita Deely's work pays off for her dialect coach abilities.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30, 5 p.m and 9 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays. (There are no performances Thursday, July 4 and there is an added performance 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 8.)
Tickets are $30 and $15 for students, with group rates available and aboutfacetheatre.com or by calling the Victory Gardens Box Office at (773) 871-3000.
At About Face, Metzgar, who is stepping down as artistic director, also directed Philip Dawkin's acclaimed "The Homosexuals." About Face Theatre is a national leader in the development of new work exploring gender and sexual identity. Since its founding by Kyle Hall and Eric Rosen in 1995, the company has premiered more than 45 world premieres by writers and directors who have been recognized with several Tony Awards, The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, The MacArthur Fellowship and dozens of Joseph Jefferson Awards.