After having dinner with my cousins and their babies at Gemini in Lincoln Park, I met my sister Flora at Steppenwolf. In case you didn't notice, this was my second night in a row visiting the venue. I got us started on some cocktails, because I'm the big sister and that's my role in the family now.
"I haven't been to a play since...since I saw one with you, last summer." Flora told me.
"I know. And that was two summers ago."
"...right. Two summers ago."
Flora lives in Bucktown now. I guess. So it was easy for her to meet up with me for this world premiere of Aziza Barnes BLKS at Steppenwolf's upstairs theatre.
My sister and I are like night and day. But night and day in the same city, where even though it's dark out, you might go back to a bar you noticed during the day, that wasn't open yet. And in the day you see the same beautiful park you saw at night, but now it's full of life, more action. We like a lot of the same things, but we use them differently. We have expensive taste, but we've learned how to be practical and still have a good time. We have different beliefs, and we both have a lot of opinion on that, but we try to respect each other in that. Most of the time. Flora did some theatre with me growing up, but pretty swiftly found her way into visual arts from there. She now works as a graphic designer and I look forward to watching her work evolve. Seeing how my own work has evolved over the years, I am excited for Flora to begin to claim her style and values as she is impacted by her environment and life story.
"Family's some of the biggest haters, what'choo know about it?"
Surprisingly Flora and I had very similar feelings on the production. We definitely enjoyed it, related to it, and laughed a lot. We were both very impressed with the set and the stage itself is one I could only dream of using for the show I'm writing. The high ceilings are awesome and the space itself is big although quite cozy, maybe because there were couches all over the walls! Design-wise across the board: winning in this production.
Script-wise, as a whole, we both agreed that it felt like the pilot episode of a TV show and we were not the only ones at the post show discussion to compare the play to HBO's GIRLS. In this play we get a taste of three very different women sharing a common habitat. However, there are some relationships in the play that are done away with fairly quickly and without resolve. I suppose you could argue that life works like that sometimes, but as an audience member I was craving resolve within some of the interactions and it felt like something that might happen in the next episode. Overall I thought the cast was excellent and Flora and I each connected with different character moments. In a program note, the playwright informs us that "This is a play by blk people and for blk people." This is true, she honors that in the text, and I think that people of all colors can relate to this play on some level. One of my favorite parts was when Ry (Danielle Davis) expresses her frustration with Octavia (Nora Carroll) for not acknowledging what they are or where they stand in their relationship. She doesn't care what it is necessarily, she just wants to know what it is so she can adjust her feelings accordingly. I wish I could say I haven't been there myself. Why do we so often find ourselves in these overly-complicated situations in this generation?
If you're in your twenties and need to get out of the Chicago cold for an evening, instead of staying in and watching GIRLS alone on your laptop with your bottle of pinot noir, get some friends together, hit up Front Bar for some pre-show drinks and check out BLKS. Ally asked me if this show was one to see with a date, or with your crew. I would have to say crew. BLKS runs through January 28, in the upstairs theatre at Steppenwolf Theatre. This is a clever, timely script that will leave you asking for more; I look forward to seeing what Aziza Barnes brings to the stage next.