The world-premiere production of the Goodman Theatre-commissioned play "Teddy Ferrara" by Pulitzer Prize finalist Christopher Shinn already began attracting audience attention and buzz as soon as it started previews last week.
Student groups from both Valparaiso University and Purdue University North Central were included among young audiences brought in to meet the cast and ask questions about the story's sensitive topic.
Evan Cabnet is directing this stirring exploration of an on-campus tragedy with a cast that includes Liam Benzvi as central character Gabe, Patrick Clear as the University President, Rashaad Hall as Nicky, a reporter for the campus newspaper, Ryan Heindl as the title character and Christopher Imbrosciano as student Jay, who's in a wheelchair.
They are joined by Jax Jackson as Jaq, Dev Kennedy and Fawzia Mirza as the Campus Police, Paloma Nozicka as Jenny, Adam Poss as student newspaper editor Drew, Josh Salt as campus student body president Tim and Kelli Simpkins as faculty member Ellen with Janet Ulrich Brooks as the University Provost.
"Teddy Ferrara," which runs until March 3, is set during the senior year of Gabe, who hasn't let his sexuality stop him from running for the student government council. He's already the president of the student acceptance group. When a campus tragedy occurs that makes national headlines, it ignites a firestorm and throws Gabe's world into disorder including a confrontation with the campus newspaper and sensational headlines about the personal lives of students.
Chicagoland college and high school students were invited last week to join participants of the Goodman's Cindy Bandle Young Critics program (CBYC) for a unique opportunity to interview the cast and discuss the sensitive subject matter.
Although addressing important story subjects, from suicide and bullying to sexuality, unfortunately this play needs some editing. It runs nearly three hours, including a first half before intermission that is nearly 90 minutes. Even though there's not nudity, there's graphic content, language and sensitive social situations, making it questionable for high school students (in my opinion.)
Some of the acting is also not very strong, with some scenes not very believable, such as a scene that is far too long with the university president meeting with students and saying offensive remarks in a thoughtless manner, while eating pizza. The play also concludes with a very random scene.
The characters of Gabe and Drew are not very well developed and at times, say and do things that do not seem to represent their earlier personalities.
Following each Wednesday performance of "Teddy Ferrara," audiences are invited to attend free post-show discussions with members of the Goodman's artistic staff.
Tickets for "Teddy Ferrara," which is in the Owen Theatre, are $14 to $45 at GoodmanTheatre.org/Teddy or (312) 443-3800 or at the box office at 170 North Dearborn.
Students can also take advantage of "10Tix" tickets – $10 tickets exclusively for students, now available for advance purchase – at GoodmanTheatre.org using the promo "10Tix" or at the box office. A valid Student ID must be presented upon pickup, and limit four tickets per student. All tickets are subject to availability and handling fees apply.