Chicago Play Reco: “The 30-Year Gap”

30 Year GapHidden gems.

One of the things I love about Chicago is its vibrant theater and performance scene. Every neighborhood seems to have its own venue for great local plays or live readings. It’s a chance to unplug and get face to face with beautiful stories – so close, in fact, you can often see the actors sweat!

From what I’ve seen in Chicago, playwrights, directors, and actors are working hard to make what they bring to stage poignant, earnest, and real.

One Chicago talent is Matthew Johnston whose play “The 30-Year Gap” has one more performance of its World Premiere at the Public House Theatre. “The 30-Year Gap” is a story about Chris (Nate Speckman) and George (Gavin Donnellan), a nephew and an uncle, both gay and who come of age in two different time periods – 1978 and 2008.

Johnston described the focus of his play this way: “The main issue is how his life has changed between 1978 and 2008 and why exactly Uncle George hasn’t come out of the closet, the fear of being rejected, the fear of losing friends, jobs, housing, etc.” This is in sharp contrast to Chris’ experience coming out in 2008 to the support and celebration of friends and family. The play flashes back and forward between the two intertwined lives as Chris strives to help his uncle embrace, without shame, his love of other men.

I saw “The 30-Year Gap” with a couple of girlfriends. We were charmed by the actors, particularly Nate Speckman’s performance. But the real star of the play, we unanimously agreed, is Johnston’s dialogue. Crisp banter organically segues into the serious terrain of love, loss, violence, and then resurfaces with tenderness. I was surprised at the range of emotions Johnston could evoke in 80 minutes. Rare.

There are plot twists and at least one major surprise which I won’t spoil here. Let’s just say, look out for “the Light”. Light and love manifest in the most unexpected way. The “The 30-Year Gap” challenges the audience to ask itself: “Who counts in our society? Who do we count as lovable and worthy? How do we limit society when we limit who we love and respect?” (The playwright might disagree. But that’s what great art is about, right Matt? The work takes on a life of its own and connects with the audience in ways we may not expect.)

I highly recommend “The 30-Year Gap”. In fact, it’s scandalous that you can watch great theater for $10! Go forth and see this performance while you still have the chance. Tickets are even discounted on Goldstar.com.

Public House Theatre. 3914 N. Clark. Tickets: 773-230-4770 Last performance: Thursday, April 28th.

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