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A Different Kind Of Guys' Club 
Goodman Theatre's Support Group for Men offers some insight into male identities
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  WITH so many interesting and ongoing activities happening in Wrigleyville, it’s no surprise that each Thursday night a special––sometimes raucous––gathering at an apartment above a bar at the corner of Clark and Roscoe streets offers a group of male friends the opportunity to exchange ideas about various issues––some hot-button, some frivolous.
   The weekly meetings are a representation of how some men are dealing with compelling societal changes, and how they need one another to not only understand what’s going on but how to get through it. The Goodman Theatre production of Support Group for Men, a warm-hearted comedy running through July 29, gives us some insight into just how affected some men are when it comes to the new realities in a changing world.
   Directed by Kimberly Senior and set in 2017, just months after the election of Donald Trump and the birth of the #MeToo movement, Brian (Ryan Kitley) hosts the illuminating get-together of its four members (various ages, races and stations in life) that includes Delano (Anthony Irons), Roger (Keith Kupferer) and (Kevin) Tommy Rivera-Vega, the youngest in the group who works at the Apple Store, teaches salsa classes and describes himself as “sexually fluid.” As is the case with most clubs/groups, there are rules––strict rules––beginning with basing the proceedings on what they consider to be Native American traditions and assuming the names of “Running Buffalo,” “Floating Squirrel,” “Sleeping Hawk” and “Silver Eagle.” Further, the guidelines state: “We are brothers, we are men. We do not give advice or comment on other people’s feelings or situations. We only talk when we have the stick.” As long as someone holds "the stick" (a colorfully decorated bat), he can talk as long as he wishes and no one is allowed to interrupt or interject. Throughout the night, the topics are wide-ranging and include how to reclaim one’s manhood, finding a 20-year-old lover, Delano’s wife’s upcoming surgery for fibroids, dealing with loneliness and how Brian’s feminist girlfriend can’t get enough of him.
––Walter Leavy
Tommy Rivera-Vega (left to right), Ryan Kitley, Keith Kupferer and Anthony Irons in Support Group for Men at the Goodman Theatre.
After viewing some violent activities on the street outside the apartment (above), police enter the picture and later Jeff Kurysz (sitting on the floor) joins the meeting. 
   Support Group for Men was written by Ellen Fairey, who first presented the play as part of Goodman’s 2016 New Stages Festival, where audiences gave it their immediate approval. Since that time, she has updated portions and added new and pertinent material. “I began writing Support Group for Men almost eight years ago, and in the time since, the national conversation around gender has come to the forefront in a way I never could have imagined,” she says. “It’s incredibly exciting, meaningful and at times challenging. I’m no longer just writing abut a bunch of middle-aged guys trying to figure their stuff out; I’m writing about a group of men who find themselves in a world where everything has changed, and will continue to change––and what it means when ‘to be a man’ finds itself on the sociological chopping block.”
   With the help of other cast members (Jeff Kurysz, Sadieh Rifai and Eric Slater), the actors give you a sense that this group has found a safe place from the chaos and crises evident in the outside world that affect how they express who they are and how they feel about themselves. Still, like so many other men, they struggle with the uncertainty of their own identities, but this engaging exploration––Support Group for Men––casts new focus on masculine identities, creating a comfortable spot where men can examine their emotional sides and share their fears without being judged.
Performance Schedule: Tuesday July 24 at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. performances on July 12, July 19; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (no 7:30 p.m. performance on July 15 and July 29). For more information and tickets, go to www.goodmantheatre.org.
Photography by Liz Lauren