Thursday, July 26, 2012
Hot Play in the Summertime: Hit The Wall
I don't like to sweat while I'm watching a play. It just isn't comfortable. And for that reason, I rarely go to a show at Chicago's Theater on the Lake, which is not air-conditioned. However, last night I made an exception as I went to Hit The Wall, a production by The Inconvenience that had a critically-acclaimed, sold-out run earlier this year as part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep series. I was disappointed when I didn't get to see the show then, so when I heard that it was being remounted for five performances this summer, I decided to venture on down to the lake and pray for a cool evening. Unfortunately, it was 90+ degrees last night as I sat down to watch Hit The Wall, which - fittingly - begins with musical director John Cicora's three-man band playing Sly and the Family Stone's 1969 hit, "Hot Fun in the Summertime". And all I can say is: Thank God I loved the play.
Also, the warm temperature helped us in the audience to experience what all our gay brothers and sisters must have felt during the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, when it was 90+ degrees in New York City's Greenwich Village. In Hit The Wall, playwright Ike Holter and director Eric Hoff brilliantly dramatize the events that unfolded before, during and after the police raided a popular gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, which was the beginning of the gay rights movement. And for 90 intermissionless minutes, we are transported back to that fateful night with the help of an amazing ensemble of actors, including Walter Briggs as a cop, Daniel Desmarais as a new kid in town, Zach Kenney as a businessman, Mary Williamson as a housewife, Steve Lenz as a cute young draft dodger, and Desmond Gray and Ricardo Gamboa as two flamboyant friends. But I must single out three performances that were especially riveting to watch - Daeshawna Cook as Roberta, an in-your-face feminist "dyke" (as she prefers to be called), Rania Salem Manganaro as Peg, a lonely butch lesbian, and Manny Buckley as Carson, a fabulous Judy Garland-loving transvestite who commands the stage from beginning to end. The entire cast is perfect - and I was pleasantly reminded of a Robert Altman film while watching them bring to life their vivid characters whose stories become intertwined during the landmark demonstration.
Hit The Wall is what you call damn good Chicago theater. It doesn't get any better than this, folks, so I highly recommend that you dress sparingly and make your way to the lake for a memorable evening of drama. It's definitely worth the perspiration - and hand fans are provided.
Hit The Wall runs through July 29 at Theater on the Lake (2401 N. Lake Shore Drive). Tickets are only $17.50, and you can purchase them by phone at (312) 742-7994. For more information, go to www.chicagoparkdistrict.com. And to learn more about The Inconvenience, go to www.theinconvenience.org.
Photo Credit: Ryan Bourque