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  The Way West at Steppenwolf Theatre

The Way West

Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N. Halsted Chicago

In a modern-day California town that's seen better days, Mom shares death-defying tales of pioneer crossings with her two squabbling adult daughters as she waits for her bankruptcy to come through. Peppered with original prairie songs, this hilarious and heartbreaking play about today's American family explores the mixed blessing of our great frontier spirit, which has fueled both self-delusion and survival.

Thru - Jun 8, 2014

Price: $20-$78

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 312-335-1650

Running Time: 2hrs, 10mins

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  The Way West Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...Certainly, "The Way West" is not trying to be cold, hard realism, but when you are writing about economic and social realities, such matters must be thought through, lest they pull the viewer from the play. There also is the matter of a relationship between Manda, who is single, and an old flame from the past (played by Gabriel Ruiz) that made no motivational sense to me whatsoever. It's so seriously underwritten, it fits awkwardly into the whole."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Recommended

"...Mansours play, zestily directed by Amy Morton, puts an almost farcical, sitcomlike spin on the enduring, even self-mocking tall tales celebrating the pioneer spirit, with all the accompanying narratives of near superhuman endurance and survival. At the same time she casts a sharp, sardonic look at Americans woeful ignorance of what one character dubs their financials. The result is a goofy tailspin of a play far from subtle, but an accurate depiction of where we are now, even as we begin to crawl out of our economic mess."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...The challenge for a director is to indulge the extremity of Mansour's burlesque without losing the thread of humanity that makes that burlesque worth sitting through. Amy Morton manages the job nicely. The songs that punctuate the action, in particular, have "whimsy trap" written all over them. Morton avoids getting snared by treating them in a more or less Brechtian manner, as a means of uniting narrative concerns with the political argument."
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Tony Adler

Windy City Times - Recommended

"...Playwright Mona Mansour understands that the size of the fortune is not importantpoor judgment can squander millions in stocks or pennies in a jam jar. As Mom's health deteriorates, and the house crumbles under the neglect that comes of denial, the day finally arrives when there is no money to pay the pizza man, reducing the sisters to raiding fruit trees growing on the lawns of foreclosed neighborhood homes, while feral coyotes howl nearby. If you think this is a worst-case scenario exceeding the limits of plausibility, be assured that it is played out in countless homes todaymaybe your own, or that of someone close to you."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Centerstage - Not Recommended

"...Inexplicable events occur, such as a tree descending from the ceiling into the living room of the familys house. The first act follows a logical, if dull, plot line. The second is a jumble of events smashed together so that the play can come to some sort of end. Only, it doesnt come soon enough."

Christopher Kidder-Mostrom

Chicagoist - Somewhat Recommended

"...While The Way West has its true moments of poignancy and even a few laugh-out-loud moments, it needs a more compelling plot and a fleshed-out tone. But if we've learned anything from the days of the gold rush and westward land-grabbing, it's that the true pioneer spirit lives on, and with some work, so will this play."
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Melody Udell

Time Out Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...It seems like Mansour wants to comment on the unsustainability of America's ever upwardly mobile self-presentation, which is perfectly valid. But it also feels as though we're meant to laugh at the untenability of all three women's teetering on the edge of disaster. For those of us who can recognize the same kind of desperate rationalizations in our own family members or ourselves, it's not so hilarious."
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Kris Vire

Stage and Cinema - Not Recommended

"...But the real blame in this mean show is very specificand its on Mom. Its way too easy for a prosperous Steppenwolf audience to ignore the shrinking of the middle class and simply dismiss these monumental mistake-makers for what they are in Amy Mortons dogged staging: fierce females who fail, then bravely pick themselves up to fail again. Why bother and so what?"
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Lawrence Bommer

Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"... The Way West is an extremely entertaining, richly textured, and often very funny portrait of a family, and a society, going through economic ruin. It is also an unusual play. Playwright Mona Mansour presents it partly through intentionally grand storytelling, partly through odd song interludes, and partly in an almost sardonic sitcom-like style of humor. And layered sub-textually underneath all this is a realistic vulnerability that shows how seriously detached all of these characters really are from reality. It may be easy to dismiss this play when just looking at the surface level, but upon closer inspection theres a lot more substance than what meets the eye. At its most basic level this is a story about survival. But just like our pioneers journey westward this play is also an exploration. It offers an examination into the myths we hold in our convictions; of our questionable belief in manifest destiny, about the delusion in holding such strong faith in things that arent tangible; and about how our countrys feeling of exceptionalism and the desire for the American dream has made us lose touch with reality.
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Justin LeClaire

ChicagoCritic - Not Recommended

"...The satire didnt garner enough bite to be funny, the stories and songs became irritating. Since we never relate to these losers, we ultimately lose by spending two hours with them. With all the resources that Steppenwolf possess, youd hope theyd select a finer play to mount. The Way West cover much yet resolves little as it beats up a group of losers whose self-delusion is at our expense."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Somewhat Recommended

"...There is some good material in The Way West and Mona Mansour clearly has strong opinions about the fools gold of the American mythos, but she has written a play where the dream has already died. All of the characters have already gotten off the trail by the time the play begins and watching entropy take its toll is just not that exciting. There is a good play to be written about this family, but for now, Steppenwolf is presenting a bang-up production of a play that has potential as one of its main assets."

Kerstin Broockmann

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Somewhat Recommended

"...If Mansour intends to make meaningful statements about the economic struggles of common Americans today and the lives of diminished expectations they face, then she needs to take her characters more seriously. If the playwright wants to write a successful comedy built on the struggles of sympathetic but uncomprehending middle class America, her play will have to be funnier and not lean on non sequitur musical interjections to win appreciation from the spectators. A satisfying play still may be culled from the current product. The Steppenwolf presentation is a world premiere so maybe the final script is still open to reconsideration. In its present shape there needs to be major workshopping before The Way West is ready for prime time."

Dan Zeff

The Fourth Walsh - Not Recommended

"...I've never written a review like this in my life... but seriously WTF? THE WAY WEST has no relevant significance in the west or contemporary times. The idea of a family grappling with economic hardship is so 2009. And even though the economy still sucks in every direction, our surprise over loose spending by our neighbors is gone. We no longer are in ignorant bliss about bankruptcy. People are wasting money on get-rich-quick schemes. We know about their stupidity. We may have been empathetic initially. Now, we are just annoyed that it continues and the aftermath affects everything and everyone. THE WAY WEST is not thought-provoking. It's irritating."
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Katy Walsh

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