Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review of The Burials at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Burials. It was by Caitlin Parrish and it was directed by Erica Weiss. It was about this girl named Sophie (Olivia Cygan) whose father Ryan Martin (Coburn Goss) is a Republican politician. She and her brother Ben (Matt Farabee) and her sister Chloe (Becca Savoy) all went to the same high school, and one day her brother shot a bunch of people who were at her school. The play is about still loving your family even if they did something awful, grieving, guns, and being blamed for something that isn't completely your fault. High school is an extremely stressful time already, and to have all this extra stress to deal with makes it even more sad. I feel like it is good that Steppenwolf is doing such an adult play for young audiences because I feel like kids are already aware of school shootings, gun control, and death but those issues need more explaining and exploring and I'm glad Steppenwolf does that. I thought this show was very beautiful and it moved me a lot.

I thought that the projections (by Joseph A. Burke) really added a lot to the show. There were videos played throughout the play about Ben. I feel like somebody through a screen can be scarier because you don't know what the rest of their life is like, and that was very true about Ben. I kind of sensed right away there was something not right about him. But there was also a slight chance that he was just a regular teenage boy. There are also moments in the videos that are kind of sweet, but he just discards all of those sweet moments. There would also be projections of Sophie's Twitter feed whenever she sees something on Twitter. I think it was good to see those because her family is getting a lot of hate and seeing it on the screen makes us realize how much there is and how overwhelming it is. The sound (designed by Matt Chapman) also was very immersive. You didn't see the shooting; all you saw was the aftermath. But you could hear the whole shooting: that included the screams of everyone and I found it actually unsettling. I don't know how something can be unsettling in a good way, but this was because it had a lot of impact and that was really good. School shootings are an awful awful awful thing and the sound of it is very traumatizing and the sound design really captured that.

Sophie has a very loyal friend named Janette (Stephanie Andrea Barron) and even though she knows thousands of people are really mad at Sophie she will continue to be her friend. And if anyone tries to hurt Sophie, Janette will fight back. She would be the absolutely best friend possible if her boyfriend Jayden (Joel Boyd) didn't hate Sophie so much. I actually found Jayden pretty hilarious because he did have some pretty good one liners even though the circumstances around them were awful. But then he also had this really beautiful and sad speech about how he got hurt during the shooting. Sophie also makes two more friends--Greg (Ty Olwin) and Brianna (Aurora Adachi-Winter)--by the end of the show just because of the circumstances, which is kind of weird because both of them had reasons to hate her. Even though the circumstances are really awful, the playwright tried to get some kind of bright side. I think that it was good to show how strong people can be.

In this show they have a bunch of different news reports about Mr. Martin's campaign and the shooting. All the reporting was done by Zoe (Kristina Valada-Viars). You also got to see what Zoe would say off camera, and she was very different, which was interesting and kind of disturbing. She was not very biased when she was on camera, but when she got off she definitely had a very strong opinion. Sophie's sister Chloe was very sarcastic when she was on the news, and I think everybody could tell that. She would talk about praying a lot but in a very snarky way. It showed us that Chloe didn't give a dang what anyone thought of her family. She just didn't want to be a part of it. At first, Sophie is always there for her father and says that she wants to help him with everything. But over the course of the play she becomes her own person and she is not ruled by her father as much anymore. But she doesn't get snarky on t.v. She just says how she feels. The sisters do really love each other and they have the same goal, which is getting to be their own person, but they have different ways of going about it.

People who would like this show are people who like effective sound and projections, strong friendships, and being snarky on t.v. I think people should definitely go see this show. It really made me think and feel a lot. I think this is an absolutely beautiful show.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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