Sunday, December 3, 2017

Review of The Minutes at Steppenwolf

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Minutes. It was by Tracy Letts and it was directed by Anna D. Shapiro. It was about a man named Mr. Peel (Cliff Chamberlain) who has just come back from his mother's funeral and it is his first day back at the city council. Everyone is being secretive about the last meeting, the minutes have not been released, and Mr. Carp (Ian Barford) is missing. And so Mr. Peel has to find out what is happening, and he discovers some dark secrets about the town. It is about exclusion, political corruption, and the need for the truth. I think this is a very intriguing play. The plot was really engrossing. This doesn't sound like a play that would be a comedy, but it is actually very funny. It was a really cool experience to see politics through this lens.

There were a lot of funny moments. One of my favorites was when Mr. Blake (James Vincent Meredith) decided that it would be great to have a cage match with Abraham Lincoln as a new festival tradition called "Lincoln Smackdown." Which might be one of the weirdest ideas I've ever heard. And to hear him give his pitch was just hilarious because he thinks it is going to make the city lots of money. He doesn't seem to know why anyone wouldn't think it was the best idea in the world. It was really hilarious to see him try to defend his idea of letting people punch Lincoln in the face. Mr. Oldfield (Frances Guinan) really really wanted Mr. Carp's parking space and he was basically complaining about how he had been on the council the longest and didn't have a close parking space. It is funny because he is just really obsessed with getting this parking space and you'd think he could let it go for a minute. Ms. Matz is funny because she is so clueless and doesn't really understand how the government works and can't seem to stay engaged or pay attention for more than thirty seconds--unless she's performing in a historical pageant. The entire council starting doing this pageant for Mr. Peel, so he could understand the history of Big Cherry better. It was really funny because they gave it completely their all and were performing this story like they were on Broadway, but all the council members were doing a really bad job. It was also just funny to see council members doing theater. And Mr. Oldfield doing foley by tapping on his Tupperware and whistling was hilarious. The girl (played by Ms. Matz) who had been kidnapped in this story was called Little Debbie, and they said she became very rich in the future, and I was wondering if it was because her of Swiss Cake Rolls. But instead it is because of genocide.

(SPOILER ALERT: I'm trying to be vague enough so I can make a point, but the rest of this review might give some things away.) A lot of the funny moments, you realize later, have a dark side to them. In the pageant, the story they were telling was not 100 percent true. It is later revealed that the person who was thought of as a hero actually turned out to be a racist, terrible person that didn't even do any of the noble things the legend said he did. And you see how the town is built on lies and the suffering of others. I also realized that Ms. Matz wasn't just spaced out all the time; she might have acted that way because of her medication. And my hypothesis is that she is taking the pills so she can forget about the terrible thing she is doing. And Mr. Oldfield's obsession with parking seems like he is trying to take the place of someone who is gone, which is already creepy, but then all of a sudden the group is doing terrible things, but all he can think about is the parking. He isn't fazed by the terrible things. And even though Lincoln Smackdown seems like a hilariously terrible idea, there is still a dark side to it. It seems like Mr. Blake is trying to fit in with all the racist white people in the town. But later you understand that he is probably terrified of what might happen to him and his family.

Mr. Hanratty (Danny McCarthy), Ms. Johnson (Brittany Burch), and Mr. Carp all have moments of redemption, where you think they have become better people. The first good deed that you see is from Mr. Hanratty who wants to build a accessible fountain for people in wheelchairs. He is interested in this because his sister is in a wheelchair. It is sort of an intersection between doing a good thing for the world and doing something self-interested because it is his sister that he is thinking about. But even if it was just because his sister was in a wheelchair, it still would have been a good thing for the world to have, except that what was on the fountain didn't really deserve a memorial. Ms. Johnson ends up revealing the minutes because she knows it is the right things to do, but she ends up being too scared for her family to finish what she started and still continuing on the darker path. Mr. Carp you don't get to see a lot of, but you know he used to be as bad as everyone else until he realized something. He does something good with his realization: he decides to speak up even though it is dangerous. I think the playwright is trying to make a point about what motivates us--that is family, fear, comfort, and justice. They are not always good motivations, but sometimes they might have a good outcome. And sometimes good motivations can have a bad outcome. A lot of people would do anything for their family, but to oppress other people so your family can have a nicer house is a cruel idea.

People who would like this show are people who like Little Debbie, Lincoln Smackdown, and Tupperware foley. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is such an intriguing show and it really made me think a lot. It is very funny but disturbing. I really liked it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

1 comment:

Avid Reader said...

I can't remember seeing a film with such humor that took such a disturbing turn. I was prepared for Mr. Carp to have gone as he did but not for the tribal dance. (I'm trying to be vague too.)