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  Straight White Men Reviews
Straight White Men
Steppenwolf Theatre

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Highly Recommended

"..."Straight White Men," the fascinating and hugely arresting Lee-authored and Lee-directed piece that emerged in the downtown New York scene and now has been revised and restaged in the Upstairs Theatre at Steppenwolf, is at its core an exploration of the question as to whether a straight, white man should - in real, practical terms, not in personal brand-building declarations of sympathy on Twitter or Facebook - do that to himself in capitalist, dog-eat-dog America."
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Chris Jones



Chicago Sun Times- Somewhat Recommended

"...The production, directed by Lee - and, as always at Steppenwolf, exuberantly acted - begins with a purposeful if unnecessary aural assault, as "Yankin'," a track by rapper Lady (and yes, I had to ask what it was) is blasted at eardrum-piercing volume. If you display discomfort, one of two self-described transgender minders/dressers arrives with earplugs, though these hardly buffer the noise. (And I value my hearing.) The whole thing felt more condescending than consciousness-awakening."
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Hedy Weiss



Daily Herald- Somewhat Recommended

"..."Straight White Men" imagines the ever-endearing Steppenwolf ensemble member Alan Wilder as a widowed father to three adult sons home for Christmas: Brian Slaten's Matt, a top-of-his-class Harvard grad who's already come home to live under the burden of student loans; Madison Dirks' Jake, a good-natured but self-admitted "hypocrite" as a corporate banker; and Ryan Hallahan's Drew, a novelist and college professor."
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Ted Cox



Windy City Times- Highly Recommended

"...When the major part of your dialogue is the familiar manspeak of potty jokes, orifice-based epithets, grunts, howls and barks, punctuated by retro-hormonal kinetic seizures, it's not easy to reject sketch-comedy caricature, as the company assembled for this Steppenwolf production does, to instead articulate ( intelligently, insightfully and compassionately ) the breadth of existential pressure exerted upon favored offspring by an impatient society demanding immediate return on their investment."
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Mary Shen Barnidge



Time Out Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...Matt, for his part, insists he's fine, despite breaking down in tears over Christmas Eve dinner. Rejecting anything he sees as handed to him unearned, he maintains to his disbelieving family members that he's only trying to figure out "how to be useful." Whether that's a noble question, a crippling one or both is a problem Lee's intriguing and entertaining play leaves unsolved."
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Kris Vire



Chicago On the Aisle- Somewhat Recommended

"...For a play as benign as Young Jean Lee's curiously titled "Straight White Men," this glimpse into the man cave of three grown brothers and their father at Steppenwolf Theatre surely will engender the debate for which it ultimately begs."
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Lawrence B. Johnson



Stage and Cinema- Recommended

"...Steppenwolf Theatre is great at stirring things up-on stage and in the minds of its crowds. Nobody does it so well. Exhibit A is their latest offering: There's good cause for the subversive disruption of Straight White Men. Employing a very generic title to set things apart, hot new playwright Young Jean Lee is not white or male. (We won't guess beyond that.) But that hasn't stopped her script from exposing its title."
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Lawrence Bommer



Chicago Stage Standard- Somewhat Recommended

"...In an ideal world, the final image of a play should tell you something. It should leave the audience with a sense of what meaning should be derived from the play they just watched. In the case of writer/director Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men at Steppenwolf, that image is of Matt (Brian Slaten), the eldest of three adult Straight White Male brothers, sitting on his father’s couch and looking directly at the audience. From that, I was left with a surprising feeling of identity. As a non-white man who spent most of the play feeling like I was definitely not the target audience, that caught me off guard. But, perhaps that is Lee’s intention."

Jerald Raymond Pierce



Around The Town Chicago- Somewhat Recommended

"...It is not often, but there are times, we see a play with excellent actors doing all they can to entertain an audience, and yet, the material they have been given to work with is just not good. I may take that a step further as I discuss the Chicago Premiere of "Straight White Men" written by Young Jean Lee, who also directed this production. The up-front promo sheets explained that this would be a story about a widower, Ed (played to perfection by Alan Wilder) and his three adult sons, who are "home for Christmas" (although it appears as if they are Jewish), and the life-changing discoveries that they will make!"
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Alan Bresloff



NewCity Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...What makes "Straight White Men" so different from the hundreds (or thousands) of other plays about, well, straight white men, is that it treats its characters like subjects to be studied. To wit: before each scene, Jenetopulos and Wilhelm lead the actors onstage and pose them like department store mannequins. Their reality is just as artificial as anyone else's. Lee, who also directs, is not writing a play in which gender, race and sexual orientation are default settings. In fact, her attitude might best be described as "anthropological." Though it is not without empathy."
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Alex Huntsberger



Chicago Theatre Review- Recommended

"...This latest offering by Steppenwolf is partly laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes resembling a broad sketch comedy, and partly a tense drama of confrontation. Most of the times Lee has kept a tight control over her players and her script, while the audience holds its collective breath, waiting for what will come next. In this fragmentary, realistic drama, real life is what happens next."
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Colin Douglas



Chicagoland Theater Reviews- Recommended

"...The success of "Straight White Men" may reside in the eye and ear of the viewer. Some patrons may willingly follow the storyline through its twists and dead ends while others will be irritated and possibly puzzled by just what the playwright wants to prove. But defects and all, the play is still a show that should set the attentive viewer's mind churning."
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Dan Zeff



The Fourth Walsh- Recommended

"...On the surface, SWM could be a wise-cracking bromance. Dirks, Hallahan and Slaten find a comfortable camaraderie. The brothers’ interactions feels authentic. They teasingly torment each other with smelly feet to the face and light-hearted jabs to childhood memories. When one brother is hung over, the other are merciless in trying to make him hurl. One argument is resolved by dancing off the tension. And nod out to Slaten with some impressive moves during the living room floor show."
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Katy Walsh



Third Coast Review- Highly Recommended

"...The four cast members are all excellent performers and believable as brothers and father. Lee paces the story well. Her staging and the scenic design by David Evans Morris are perfect in every way. The family room, done in beiges and beiges, has a dartboard on the wall, a tack board pinned with political notices, and easy access to Ed's cache of snack foods, including a giant jar of pretzels."
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Nancy Bishop



Picture This Post- Recommended

"...If this sounds a bit cerebral, know not to worry. Straight White Men, which aims to roil below the surface with an exploration of gender and race identity, packs a gag per minute and keeps you laughing most of its 90-minute run. We watch grown men revisit the bathroom humor that still tickles them the most, with fart and body function jokes galore. We get Vaudeville style parodies of race, class and gender privilege, and feel as if we know the highly intelligent woman who was their Mom, ever trying to insert estrogen-laced reason into her sons' growing noodles. We get glib one-upsmanship the way only brothers who know each other so well can do."
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Amy Munice