Saturday, April 11, 2015

Straight White Men

Play #92 - Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee

Ed has three sons - Matt, Jake, and Drew. Jake is a businessman, Drew is a successful academic, and Matt, the eldest, is an idealist who has moved back home to take care of his father. The boys were raised by a politically conscious set of parents who explained to them the problems of white male privilege - a lesson that Matt in particular has taken deeply to heart. They even play a board game called "Privilege" that their mother had made out of a Monopoly set when they were kids. It's sort of genius. The play takes place from December 24-26 some year in the now-ish period, and as the men come together for Christmas, they end up confronting the issues that come from Matt's decision to move home, working as a temp for an activist organization. The scenes of family interaction are kind of great, with stupid boyhood pranks and great shared jokes - sometimes in the form of songs - peppering the stage. But when they all finally deal with the fact that Matt is unhappy, not because he is so devoted to his beliefs that he won't allow himself to be happy, but because he's sort of a loser, it turns out not to be the happy family holiday it had started out to be.

One thing that really interested me in the introductory matter to the play, but that never played itself out to my satisfaction, is the character of the Stagehand-in-Charge. This character is intended to be played by a transgender or gender-non-conforming actor. He or She or Ze introduces the show, and then oversees the scene transitions. The problem is that, after the introduction, the SiC never speaks again. I sort of felt the desire to check in with the SiC from time to time. I guess it could be a statement about the relative silence of the "other" in comparison to the central story of the Straight White Men, but, I guess that, not being a straight white man, I was sort of more interested in the SiC's take on things.

It's interesting, not a lot really happens per se - it's not terribly plot driven in that sense. But the air is thick with the assumptions that straight white men are able to make in the world. It turns out that failure to benefit from white male privilege for the sake of the greater good might be noble, but the same failure on its own is unacceptable. If you already have a great education, and someone who is willing to pay off your student loans, and all the charisma in the world, then what right do you have to be a failure for no good reason?

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