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  Play Details

Tribes

Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N. Halsted Chicago

Billy's intellectual and proudly eccentric English family is its own tiny empire: private languages, in jokes and fiery arguments. Billy, deaf since birth, is the only one who truly listens. When he meets his girlfriend Sylvia, he is introduced to a larger Deaf community, which sparks a struggle for self-identity and rebellion against his family. Tribes is a sharp, witty story about finding the place where you can be heard-and the family where you belong.

Thru - Feb 15, 2014



Price: $20-$82

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 312-335-1650

Running Time: 2hrs, 20mins; one intermission

www.steppenwolf.org


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  Tribes Reviews

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...the heart of this drama is dinner-table conversation, and those domestic realities really come to vibrant and strikingly compassionate life with Pendleton at the helm. I think there are a few moments when Arenas' natural sense of vulnerability works against the play's careful balance of Sylvia as part liberator and part a dangerously malcontent interloper in Billy's life, and the romantic connection between Arenas and McGinty is not all it could be nor all the play demands. But once this group gets around its kitchen table, and the very familiar family recipe of love and mutual destruction gets cooking, then "Tribes" works very powerfully. As a director, Pendleton invariably shows compassion for all the characters in his care, which makes him a good match for "Tribes." He just has a way of showing us struggles that feel so much like our own."
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Chris Jones


Chicago Sun Times - Recommended

"..."Tribes" homes in on a contemporary bourgeois-bohemian English family: A couple in their early 60s, and their three twentysomething "children," all trapped in a net of intense but thwarted love, seething resentments, bitter competitiveness, intellectual and artistic status-seeking and a painful failure to communicate in any language."
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Hedy Weiss


Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...Raine's 2010 script is a generous, ultimately delicate thing. She's much kinder to Christopher, for instance, than I've been here. But then my feelings about him are no doubt heavily influenced by the way he's presented in the Steppenwolf Theatre production directed by Austin Pendleton. A friend who saw David Cromer's version last year, at Barrow Street Theatre in New York, recalled Christopher's viciousness being somewhat more sotto voce there. Here, it's loose, loud, and jagged. Despite his avuncular looks, Francis Guinan doesn't pull any punches as the paterfamilias. Which may be a mistake, since it mitigates our sense of the family's glamour at the start, in turn making Billy's rebellion less interesting because it's less of a surprise."
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Tony Adler


NewCity Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...Despite an abundance of witty dialogue, impeccable sound design and original music by Josh Schmidt and impressive performances all around, this show takes a while to pick up speed with relationships (and accents-the family is British) feeling muddled for much of the first act. The second act is much more dynamic, though the symbolism and linguistic discussions in Raine's script become too heavy-handed for the action to support. When the ever-tolerant Billy finally loses his cool and sets a stake in the ground, the resulting reaction from his family doesn't feel quite deep enough. Like Billy's family, director Austin Pendleton would benefit from investing more effort in the emotional aspects of this story rather than the symbolic and philosophical ones."
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Zach Freeman


Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...What speaks louder than the verbiage hurled at one another by this noisy, vulgar, fiercely affectionate tribe is the undeniable pain of individuals struggling to articulate their needs to loved ones seemingly-well, deaf to their entreaties. A journey's first step can be a single word ( or gesture ), though, and while audiences may resent Raine for refusing to provide her densely textured play a tidy resolution, when your story is all about taking those risky first steps, an ending that sends us home thinking "NOW what?" is a compelling reminder that only with the next step can progress occur."
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Mary Shen Barnidge


Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Steppenwolf's cast is spot-on, with Guinan fulminating and frustrating and Regan his appealing foil. McGinty, coming directly from the same role at the Guthrie Theater, gives a layered, perceptive performance as Billy that's well matched in Arenas's empathetic, imperfect Sylvia, while Haggard's increasingly disconsolate Daniel establishes a needy but tender brotherly bond. Austin Pendleton's direction seems to hit all the right tones, though his physical staging could be cleaner; the actors too often find themselves awkwardly clumped in corners of Walt Spangler's tatty abode."
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Kris Vire


Stage and Cinema - Highly Recommended

"...Notwithstanding the overwrought second act and a certain sitcom slickness to the dialogue, this Steppenwolf Theatre Company local premiere is a wise wonder. It’s perfectly tuned to the chords of compassion that radiate through these 135 minutes. McGinty is eloquence itself as a young man caught in the crossfire of far too-separate worlds. The hearing actors give his rebellion depth and detail. It’s an ear-opening evening, a “coming out” play about a sense rather than sex but just as compelling."
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Lawrence Bommer


Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"...This one of the best productions I've seen at Steppenwolf in a while. The struggle to hear and be heard proves a painful endeavor for all the characters. This is a noisy play, full of noisy characters, but its best moments are all non-spoken: Sylvia demonstrating poetry through sign language, Billy embracing his brother at the end. And in one of the most emotional moments Sylvia upon seeing the family piano remembers how she used to love to play. She sits down and begins a beautiful and careful rendition of Debussy's "Clair de Lune", but slowly losing her hearing she hits some wrong notes on the way, but the emotion is still there. Playwright Nina Raine shows us that language has its limitations, what matters most in our understanding of each other is not what we say, but what comes from the heart."
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Justin LeClaire


ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...One of the elements that makes Nina Raine's play so riveting is the balance presentation of the arguments she presents about the independence verses victimization as well as the levels of communicating and listening, The degrees and hierarchy of the status of the deaf and the argument of singing versus lip reading are completely presented. Tribes is funny yet powerful, emotional and honest. It has wit and fully developed characters in a refreshing story about one family's search for a common language as well as their struggle to find that place where each can be heard in a loving family whatever that may be. The needs and wants of the 'tribe' versus individual desires of each member are dramatically presented. Tribes is a terrific work, well written and structured featuring outstanding performances especially from Francis Guinan, Steve Haggard and the John McGinty. This is one of the best production of 2013. Don't miss it!"
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Tom Williams


Chicago Now - Recommended

"...TRIBES may sound like a story of a deaf man in an identity crisis. After listening intently, you will realize TRIBES is much more. It's a coming of age story about childhood roles we assume and discard and revisit as adults."
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Katy Walsh


Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...Steppenwolf Theatre is one of our resident companies that never fears taking risks and they prove that on a consistint basis. The current production on their "downstairs" stage is unique in that it is a story about "language", but not in the usual way- "language" in this particular story written by Nina Raines is about a family, an English family ( although it could easily be any "language" as the main one of the family), that lives in its own world- all artists of sort ( teacher/writer, Opera Singer, Author, and comic actor and then there is Billy, a son who was born deaf, but not allowed to live in the life of a deaf person- no sign language ( ah, there is that word), but more or less raised to read lips and expressions. Why should this family be different from any other? As it turns out, Billy ( a masterful portrayal by John McGinty, who has played this role before coming to Chicago) who a sit turns out, is the only family member who truly hears what is being said by the others!"
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Alan Bresloff


Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...Pendleton’s production is strong and moving and offers a great deal of unexpected humor, particularly in Act I. There are beautiful, subtle moments in this production that touch the heart. Details, such as Walt Spangler’s realistic, contemporary set, John Boesche’s precise interpretations of the signed dialogue and Rachel Anne Healy’s naturalistic costuming help make this play feel like a slice of life. And then there’s John McGinty who brings life to Ms. Raine’s story, reminding audiences of everyone’s need to belong to their own tribe."

Colin Douglas


Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"...Austin Pendleton has directed the show unobtrusively but with great pace, especially in the first act when the sarcastic dialogue fairly flies out of the mouths of the characters. Walt Spangler has designed a fine detailed domestic interior. Rachel Anne Healy's costumes, Keith Parham's lighting, John Boesche's projections that translate the signing dialogue to the audience, and especially Josh Schmidt's sound design complete a flawless staging."
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Dan Zeff


   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the opening night judges of The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee. The entire production is then eligible for nomination for awards at the end of the season.
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