Total Rating: 
July 16, 2017
Cor Theater
Theater Type: 
Pride Arts Buena
Theater Address: 
4147 North Broadway
Jordan Tannahill

Two sets of affluent parents meeting to discuss an incident involving their respective offspring is a premise inviting anticipation of a comedy of manners in the style of Yasmina Reza, where rational discourse quickly gives way to voices raised in angry protest, often to the exclusion of the subject initiating the dispute. Throw in a hot-issue topic, hints of class warfare and a touch of Pinteresque menace and you have all the components for a plot that could skew in a myriad of directions—which is precisely Jordan Tannahill's goal in Late Company.

Our setting is a stark-chic Lucite-and-brushed-steel dining room where Michael and Debora Shaun-Hastings are preparing to host Bill and Tamara Dermot, along with their son, Curtis. The occasion—revealed early in the narrative and serving as a springboard for the discussion to follow—is to formally acknowledge the suicide of young Joel Shaun-Hastings a year earlier, precipitated by the bullying of classmates, Curtis among them. This ceremony's purpose is to provide "closure" through the families of victim and perpetrator exchanging letters expressing regrets, remorse and ultimately, forgiveness.

Curtis’s apology turns out insufficient to placate the grieving Debora, who continues to confront him with her anguish, her fury spurring the Dermot sire and dam, and even her own skeptical husband, to defend the unprotesting Curtis from the onslaught. Gradually, information is introduced raising questions of possible aggravating factors leading to the tragedy. By the time we finally hear from the boys themselves—Joel "speaking" through self-posted videos left undeleted on the net—it has become apparent that responsibility for his untimely death lies in the lack of intervention by adult mentors ignorant and/or indifferent to the adolescent tumult occurring within their purview.

The textual transpositions of Canadian references to those of United States culture Michael is now a Republican holding office in Springfield—cannot help but sound pasted-in at times, but the ensemble led by Cor company members Tosha Fowler and Tony Buzzuto, ably assisted by Paul Fagen and Asia Jackson, invoke an atmosphere of obsessive righteousness (contrasting with Matthew Elam's stoic resignation) that keeps our sympathies ever-shifting. Also, Jessica Fisch's direction generates an ambient ambiguity prompting us to speculate on Debora's hidden motives in planning a sumptuous meal based in dishes that the designated malefactor cannot eat, or the source of the ghostly rapping emerging from empty rooms that only the bereft can hear.

This review first appeared in Windy City Times, 6/17
Mary Shen Barnidge
Date Reviewed: 
June 2017