Identity and truth hold court and spar with the souls of individuals in the reality brewing production of Immediate Family, written by Chicagoan Paul Oakley Stovall with direction from two-time Emmy Award nominee and Tony Award winner, Phylicia Rashad.
Staged in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park community, through comedy and loads of dramatic, the Bryant family, endure change in various forms.
The Plot: “Golden” child Jesse (Philip James Brannon) has been away from his family for years – building a life in Minneapolis. The urgent wedding of his younger brother, Tony (Kamal Angelo Bolden), sends him packing his bags and headed back to the city for the weekend nuptials.
However, what is unknown is the Swedish surprise Jesse has yet to confirm as his long time beau. Instead, Kristian (Patrick Sarb) is introduced as Jesse’s roommate and the last minute photographer “friend” scheduled to shoot Tony’s wedding… for free.
It’s not so much that Jesse is gay, unbeknownst to him, his family already suspected that …well … accept for his scared-of-lonely sister Evy (Shanésia Davis) who’s going through her own personal drama’s with a crashing marriage and harbored anger toward a few family members – mainly the Bryant’s half-sister, Ronnie Hahn (Cynda Williams).
As the stirring comedic drama unravels, we learn why Tony is so in a rush to get married and also a few family secrets.
Tony, who was cool with his brother’s sexual preference, finds issue with the fact that he chose to step outside of their race into a mixed racial courtship.
Ronnie fully accepts her family – White and Black. She’s fine with Jesse’s lifestyle but holds no honor for Kristian after learning about his former marriage and young son—whom he left in Stockholm because the States have more opportunity and plans to carry on life with Jesse as his partner.
This is an immediate family bound together through secrecy and struggling identities. The parallel, however, is that each individual has further understanding of themselves independently – but battle with acceptance outwardly. This is the fabric that rips them apart at the hems.
When the heat intensifies, the audience and the situations gain relief from Jesse’s proud-to-be lesbian best friend, Nina (J. Nicole Brooks). Nina’s presence provides a comedic, yet honest balance on stage.
What sticks out most with this production is the honesty of emotion. It cleverly intertwines comedy and drama while engaging social issues with that of intellectual prose and street social-ability.
There is inner-turmoil swelling within Jesse, Evy, Ronnie, and even Kristian.
Each character identifies with their personal struggle and carries that out in a responsive light engaging what many families face daily.
Though the theatrics are emphasized for stage impact, it’s done so in a way where the dialogue is so relatable to our conversations, our physical motions, relationships and the responses mirror truths and hurts of families, anywhere.
Exercised through comedy, Immediate Family, addresses controversial topics of race, religion and sexuality.
Get a dose of the production below:
**Support this production and it’s all Chicagoan cast. You won’t be disappointed!**
Immediate Family is currently running at the Goodman Theatre thru August 5th
Regular run tickets are $20–$54. Student tickets are available at the Goodman box office for $20. Student tickets must be purchased in-person with a student I.D. Discounted group tickets are available through Group Theater Tix, www.grouptheatretix.com, 312-423-6612.