BWW Review: YOU GOT OLDER at Steppenwolf Theatre Company
When it rains it pours! This saying applies to our lives when things are either going for or against us. For Mae, the central character in Clare Barron's YOU GOT OLDER now in its Chicago premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, life changes have poured on her. And these changes are certainly not for the better. Or are they?
Mae (an always captivating Caroline Neff), has broken up with her boyfriend and lost her job as a result of it. She's also having some health issues that may have been induced by these recent events. Mae heads to Seattle to spend time with her father (a charming Francis Guinan) who is in cancer treatment. While Mae attempts to support him, she also works through her own issues.
In some of the more humorous but also insightful moments, Mae has recurring fantasy dreams involving the Cowboy (Gabriel Ruiz). She gets the opportunity to express a longing to be intimate, but also to explore more of what is really going on with her. These scenes are a nice escape from the harshness of her real-life situations.
Back in reality, we meet Mac (Glenn Davis) a former classmate of Mae's, who more fondly remembers her older sister. He ends up providing some much needed and varying levels of satisfaction for Mae. We also spend time with her family, including her two sisters and brother, during a hospital visit for their father. The dynamic is interesting at times but can feel a little heavy-handed. We don't get much other than a sense of common hopefulness of this somewhat modern family.
Most of the show, under the steady direction of Jonathan Berry, is interesting enough to keep us engaged. Some scenes feel unnecessary or too long. A scene with Dad playing his cancer-fighting theme song is initially touching, but the song goes too long (with some indiscernible lyrics) and the momentum stalls. A family dance party, while well intended, again feels drawn out and a bit disjointed.
One of the final scenes, a phone call between Mae and Dad, is particularly moving. Neff and Guinan's performances are incredibly strong and touching here. Their fantastic work throughout sustains a piece that may benefit from a bit of trimming.
As Hannah, Audrey Francis perfectly captures the role of the eldest sibling who is there to keep the family's spirits up and to serve as caretaker. Davis' turn as Mac is a joy to watch and provides a nice parallel to Mae's quirkiness. Ruiz plays the cowboy with a delightful blend of sensuality, humor, and force.
Meghan Raham's set works well to evolve from backyard to bedroom, to bar, to a hospital room. Exquisite projections by Rasaen Davonte Johnson and lighting by Marcus Doshi beautifully enhance the storytelling.
YOU GOT OLDER will be relatable to many audience members, who will see themselves in these down to earth characters. It reminds us that we've all been negatively rained on in our lives. It's how we deal with those downpours that shape who we are.