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  The Qualms at Steppenwolf Theatre

The Qualms

Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N. Halsted Chicago

At a beachside apartment complex, a group of friends gathers for their regular evening of food, drink, drugs and partner-swapping. When Chris and Kristy attempt to become the newest members, the evening does not go as planned. The artichoke dip grows cold as the party devolves into a territorial battle over mating privileges. Does sex ruin everything? And what is the purpose of monogamy? Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bruce Norris's comedy explores the eternal struggle for power, status and getting laid.

Thru - Aug 31, 2014

Price: $20-$86

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 312-335-1650

Running Time: 1hr, 30mins; no intermission

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  The Qualms Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"..."The Qualms" does not yet feel finished. Both the play and the production need to at least establish the possibility of sexual desire before they can set about its wholesale deconstruction. At this juncture, you never understand why Chris and Kristy, a couple already dealing with jealousy issues, have even walked through the door. Kristy, forged with real complexity by Davis and potentially the most interesting character of the bunch, is chronically underwritten."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Not Recommended

"...Now, to the char-grilled meat of the matter: Had I taken my seat at Steppenwolf not knowing “The Qualms” was a new play, I would have thought someone had opened a time capsule from the late 1960s and decided to give the script an airing for laughs, or that some grad student who had just encountered “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” — Paul Mazursky’s 1969 film about middle-class couples engaged in spouse-swapping in the heat of the sexual revolution — had decided to give it a contemporary reworking. And the response would have been: Why bother? It’s all so old, so obvious."
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Hedy Weiss

Windy City Times - Somewhat Recommended

"...Too often, however, Norris' narrative breaks down to a series of debates triggered by a self-righteous agitator childishly rejecting the courtesy shown him by his hosts ( who inexplicably volunteer information that real-life acquaintances would have shared years earlier ) in order to propel the plot to the requisite 90 minutes mandated by modern theater marketing. To be sure, conflict-whether based in politics, religion or choice of bed-buddies-is a quick-and-easy way to generate actorly fizz, but neither Pamela McKinnon's capable ensemble of Chicago's favorite players or Todd Rosenthal's slickly replicated playpen can compensate for the clumsiness of its content."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...But what director Pam MacKinnon and her heavily stacked cast do to fill out these lightly sketched characters is practically heroic. Stovall, given the wispiest of the play’s eight main roles, makes a meal of it with Ken’s every reaction, and Fitzgerald kills Deb’s vulnerable-steamroller personality. Arrington absolutely nails a long monologue recounting Teri’s sexual history that’s equal parts wistful and wince-inducing. Every comic beat lands just right, and MacKinnon never shies away from holding an awkward moment. Still, it’d be nice if all this talk about pleasures of the flesh could be fleshed out with more satisfaction."
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Kris Vire

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...The Qualms (a cute title that sounds like both a setting and a condition) is basically an Internet forum made flesh, a "truth or dare" confessional in one act. Steppenwolf Theatre Company's new 90-minute offering from Pulitzer/Tony-winning playwright Bruce Norris is one loud argument divided into eight characters. Four couples in what used to be called a "wife-swapping" club gather in a spiffy condo in a beachside apartment complex. What results is a train wreck in slow motion."
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Lawrence Bommer

Splash Magazine - Recommended

"...Rumored to be heading to Broadway in the spring, The Qualms is already off to an encouraging and hopeful start, but it needs some additional work to clarify and strengthen what's already there. The play is definitely not terrible and all of its current problems are entirely fixable. More important, and the real reason this is worth seeing, is that this play really does provoke some vexing questions. It certainly opened up some interesting discussions with my partner and another audience member afterwards that really made me think deeply about the issues it brought up. Any play that makes you think is worth checking out even if the topics involved aren't exactly comfortable."
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Justin LeClaire

ChicagoCritic - Recommended

"...I think it’s about time a playwright had the chutzpah to mount a worthy debate about topics like sexual mores in such a funny and razor-sharp manner that is sure to spark discomfort. Topical plays short on story but long on relevant themes have their place in theatre. In the hands of a strong cast lead by Keith Kupferer, Kate Arrington and the brave performance by Kirsten Fitzgerald, The Qualms is worth the trip to Steppenwolf."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"...What qualities in a person draw them to this type of sexual behavior? Was it something that happened in childhood? If a person isn't interested in engaging in this lifestyle does it make them a frightened conservative? Or worse, a bigot? The play spews these issues across the stage in the sort of smart people yelling at each other spectacle Steppenwolf specializes in. I'm not sure if it entirely resolves them, and at times the plot gets a bit thin. There were several places in the script with jarring, rather implausible dialogue exchanges. The concept of darkness unearthed by a couple dipping their toes into swinger life seems a bit dated. But the night is truly a knockout, directed by Pam MacKinnon as a layered, familiar world."

Will Cameron

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...While the subject matter is not what you might discuss over dinner with friends, it is something that most people have had some thoughts about in their lives. Could I? Would I?. Is love shown through physical attraction or through the feelings and emotions. Is sex used for the wrong reasons and is it possible for someone to be happily in a relationship and yet explore having sex with another knowing that it is "just sex" and a release, not affection?. Norris takes a long hard look at the creature known as "human being" and the wonder that makes them wander."
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...Although ironically there’s very little hanky-panky in this play about sex, the ideas bandied about and the fervor with which these theories are debated makes for a most exciting comic drama. The problem arises when, after all’s been said and done, the playwright seems to have run out of steam before his show is finished. The play simply ends and it’s as if the previous 90 minutes never happened. Perhaps that’s the idea: all of what the audience witnesses happens only in Chris’ mind. But, then again, maybe not. With a more committed conclusion by the playwright, Bruce Norris’ latest play will surely rank up there with his best. For right now, this excellent production will have to be enough."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Somewhat Recommended

"..."The Qualms" is receiving its world premiere, which means the play can be considered a work in progress. Possibly future success lies in reducing its attempt to create a social document for our times and instead exploiting its major merit, its humor. "The Qualms" has the makings of a rollicking farce, with people dashing about and disappearing offstage for erotic purposes. The French have been tossing off this kind of adult comedy for generations. But right now the show is a better showcase for its performers than for its author. On the upside, I did learn a new word-- "polyamorous." As to the meaning of the play's title, my dictionary defines a qualm as "a sudden, disturbing feeling in the mind." Its application to the play eludes me."

Dan Zeff

The Fourth Walsh - Highly Recommended

"...The show is dynamic for its originality and thought-provoking content. On the surface, consensual adults are ready for their semi-regular orgy. Norris inserts a cerebral debate within their flesh-on-flesh hedonism. Sex and politics and sexual politics turn titillating intercourse into rousing discourse. The audience is easily seduced by this salacious ensemble."
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Katy Walsh

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