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

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

No Lights but our Own

The storm brought everyone outside: neighbors checking on each other, comparing notes, tsk-ing, and wondering at the downed trees, the debris-strewn street. I managed to sneak a post yesterday before ComEd shut everything down so they could address live wires and blown transformers. (Photos in yesterday’s post.)

ABC News reported that there were 215,000 Chicagoans without power this morning. I’ll tell you how we spent our evening. We’re one of the suburbs just west of Chicago. It was a very quiet night. With no electricity, there wasn’t the hum of the fridge or the roar of central air. I came inside and my husband had lit all the candles and wall sconces he could find in our teeny brick bungalow. It struck me…I’m so used to the noises inside my house — the whir of the laptops — it’s sort of a relief to hear the quiet in our home.

I pulled our boy outside with his harp thinking that our neighborhood might enjoy a little home-made music. So he sat in his jammies jammin on his harp. *lol* Our awesome next-door-neighbors came over and B. played his silver trumpet. A duet of trumpet and harp, two boys adding peace to the ragged edges of the storm. They played a little “Paruparong Bukid” (Filipino folk song), “Star Wars”, “A Whole New World”, and did a sweet duet of “Twinkle-twinkle Little Star”.

It was nice to hang out with our neighbors on our front stoop, enjoying our boys, and their music. Don’t get me wrong. I did worry about whether the lack of our sump-pump would flood our basement or if the food in the fridge would all go bad and whether the the temperatures would soar the next day leaving us trapped in an pressure-cooker of a house.

But the aftermath of the storm brought its pleasures, too. The quiet of the night. The boys’ music. Conversation with neighbors. A certain relaxed pace. I fell asleep to the voices of the men next door trying to figure out if they could get the garage door up and working.

Best line I heard yesterday, hands down, came from two boys cruising our hood on foot to take in the devastation:

Boy #1: “Whoooaaa! Look at that!” (He points to our neighbor’s house engulfed in tree limbs.)

Boy #2: “Told you. It’s better’n’cable!”

See what can happen when we’re unplugged?


Great Blue Heron, a riverside glimpse

Have you ever noticed

the way the Great Blue Heron

stands tall when she hunts, head snaking,

spindle-legs plunk silently?

But when she spots

the silver darting fish,

she crouches low,

a ball of feathers,

an arrow focused on one intent —-> B R E A K F A S T !