On stage at the Westport Country Playhouse is the hilarious comic satire, “Straight White Men,” by Young Jean Lee, and is directed by Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director. The show’s 2018 Broadway run at the Helen Hayes theater made the author Young Jean Lee the first Asian American female playwright to have a work produced on Broadway.
The cast includes Richard Kline, who was a series regular on television’s “Three’s Company” in the 1970s as Larry Dallas. The production reunites Kline and Lamos, who were classmates at Northwestern University. Others in the ensemble are Bill Army, Denver Milord, Nick Westrate, Akiko Akita, and Ashton Muñiz.
The play opens with loud rap music by female artists blasting over the theater sound system The lyrics are quite graphic and jarring to the ears of the average theater attendee. This is followed by two persons on stage. One announces they are non-binary person of color. The other an Asian American and also is trans and non binary. They explain that the music being played is because “they are well aware that it can be upsetting when people create an environment that doesn’t take your needs into account”. The statement coming from two non-straight men of color caused the audience to stop in its tracks and ponder.
The idea of the play came from the playwright who held a workshop of members of the LGBTQ community and posed the question “what would do you think of straight white men, and what would they be like?” From that question the characters and the setting were crafted.
In “Straight White Men,” it’s Christmas Eve, and Ed, played by Kline, has invited his three grown sons back home for the Christmas holiday. The festivities include Chinese takeout, playing a board game called “Privilege” and lots of physical boyish pranks. The story shows how Lee imagines male bonding rituals as there are long conversations about money, careers, and love and living up to your potential in life. Each of the sons are forced to face their own identities and who they have become.
The satire which runs 90 minutes probes not only the concept of white privilege but also raises issue of identity, and mental health. Themes of success and the ability to do nothing with your life at all as a option of privilege are also explored. However playwright Young Jean Lee said, “’Straight White Men’ isn’t about privilege or attempting to reveal anything new about it or solve it. I was more curious about the question, ‘if I woke up tomorrow and I was a straight white man, what would I do’?”
What Lee has done has crafted an edgy, thought provoking play that also entertains the audience with its changing focus, complex characters, and hilarious comedy. It is the witty banter and physical comedy that lightens the heavy tone of the identity crises and self examination that faces each of the characters. Mark Lamos direction breathes life into the father and his three adult sons which leaves the audience wanting to know more. A funny,unique and edgy play that you should see.
This show contains strong language and mature themes; running time is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. For the Playhouse’s 2022 season only, plays will be consolidated to a two-week performance schedule instead of the usual three-week run.
Performance schedule is Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. (No Wed. or Sat. matinees during preview week). Special series include Taste of Tuesday (May 24), LGBT Night Out (May 26), Post-Play Dialogues (May 26, 31), Opening Night (May 28), Sunday Symposium (May 29), Backstage Pass (June 1), Thursday TalkBack (June 2), and Open Captions (June 5).
Single tickets for “Straight White Men” beginning May 28 Opening Night, start at $50 and are subject to change based upon availability. Buy early for best prices. For information on special offers, including discounts for students, senior citizens, educators, military and first responders, Indigenous peoples, professional playwrights, and groups, as well as options for pay-what-you-will and Westport Library pass, visit www.westportplayhouse.org/visit/box-office/.
All audience members are required to show proof of vaccination and to wear masks while inside the Playhouse to ensure the actors stay safe and healthy to avoid performance cancellations. Based on current CDC guidance, N95 and KN95 masks are strongly encouraged. For updates on Covid-19 health and safety protocols at the Playhouse, visit the Playhouse website.
Westport Country Playhouse
25 Powers Court Westport Ct
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