The members of Support Group for Men don’t get eviscerated, but what does happen isn’t much more edifying | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

The members of Support Group for Men don’t get eviscerated, but what does happen isn’t much more edifying 

The delightful cast transcends Ellen Fairey's pat script.

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Liz Lauren

A show called Support Group For Men? Written by a woman? At this particular juncture in the life of the nation? I'd expect a bunch of smug white, cisgendered, y-chromosomed assholes getting their privilege-and sundry other parts-handed to them on a pike, to the roar of the woke masses.

That doesn't happen in Ellen Fairey's comedy, running now at Goodman Theatre in a clever 90-minute staging by Kimberly Senior. But what does—though a thousand times more generous—isn't a whole lot more edifying.

The support group of the title consists of leader Brian and three demographically diverse men he knows from various parts of his life. Delano is an uptight bourgeois black fellow from Oak Park. Young Latino techie Kevin likes both women and men but loves salsa dancing most of all. Blue-collar white Roger is the Neanderthal of the bunch—albeit an endearing and eminently redeemable one. He may make cracks about Brian's rosé and distinguish himself as the last guy on earth to call gays "light in the loafers," but he's self-aware enough to sense that his kind is disappearing.

Brian himself has no qualifications for leadership except insofar as he's decorated a baseball bat with puka shells and designated it the "talking stick." Much fun is made of the new age-y etiquette of the group. The real consciousness-raising kicks in when the men get a surprise visit from a redheaded stranger.

Fairey's script is far too pat and ingratiating to matter much. It's also dated, referencing old Chicago news like the gentrification of Wicker Park. The cast, however, manages to be delightful—especially an impish Keith Kupferer as Roger. Set designer Jack Magaw has made a masterpiece of a north-side apartment. And a vignette involving illicit drugs gives Senior the chance to take everything to another level. At least temporarily.   v


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