Like many other savvy theatergoers in the city, I was breathlessly anticipating Chay Yew’s first season as Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theater, which despite being one of the best-funded theater companies in the city and winner of a Regional Tony Award, was also known for years as one of the most conservative and most risk-averse, with an audience demographic that looked and behaved like a Florida retirement community. Yew was going to re-invigorate a theater that audience members like me had avoided because, frankly, the plays were boring and irrelevant, but which its core audience didn’t seem to mind. And like the good theater aficionado that I am, supporter of change and bold artistic visions, I bought tickets for all four shows of the season, then had mixed feelings about the first three: Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play, despite its potentially provocative subject matter felt more of the same old Victory Gardens; the Universes’ Ameriville was spirited and contemporary, but exhaustingly appealed to much of the same liberal white guilt agenda that we see over and over again in Bill Maher’s show or MSNBC; and Jackie Sibblie Drury’s world premiere We are Proud to Present a Presentation… had a pretentiously long title, a somewhat contrived premise, and despite intriguing writing in parts, a sense of needing two more drafts before it could be called a final version. But with the final play, Yew’s production of Luis Alfaro’s Oedipus El Rey, a transposition of the Oedipus Greek tragedy to the gangs of South Central LA that is smoldering, courageous, urgent, one of the best plays to literally hit the Chicago stage this year with a monster firecracker bang, this first season from Victory Garden’s new AD has fulfilled all the admittedly staggering audience expectations. I, for one, can’t wait for next season!
Tags: Victory Gardens Theater