Class Dismissed Review – The Way We Were?

Class Dismissed, a world premiere dramatic comedy


Class Dismissed is a mellow, good-natured play about Roy (Aaron Roman Weiner), a rich suburban kid, a hippie wannabe, who doesn’t want his friends to know he has dough. Roy’s and his struggling friend, Pete (Steve Key), comes up with a radical, if impractical, anti-war idea which, luckily, fails. But they hang symbol of their impotent, misguided, irresponsible idea--crossed crowbars--over the fireplace. They don't get it.  They should be embarrassed.

Mark Grapey gave an consistent, incisive comic edge to the conflict with the rich establishment. Every time there is a role for a conservative authority figure—a doctor, lawyer, etc.— Grapey appears and fills the bill.  But—ha! ha!—just when we think we have him pegged, he shows up as an over-the-top hippie in a hilarious outfit straight out of Hair.

Roy(Aaron Roman Weiner) and Pete (Steve Key) with a doctor played by Marc Grapey


Professor Jackson (Tim Grimm) provided wry humor and wise insights as well as some pointed historical references. It would have been nice if, when he jumped out of a ground floor window and hurt his leg, there had been a window instead of a pantomimed jump.

Professor Jackson (Tim Grimm) talks to Roy


The same goes for other props.  It would have been nice to have a car seat--an old bench seat would have worked--for the driving sequence, a blackboard for the classroom segment.  The characters would have had more credibility if they had more context.

Roy with Meg (Jennifer Avery)


The playwright and/or the director played nicely with the character of Pete's daughter, Lisa (Jessica London-Shields),  by allowing her to appear on stage before she was born and announcing it to the audience.

Lisa (Jessica London-Shields), Pete's Daughter, Jackson and Pete


Double-casting the professor and the rich father was a subtle, effective way to say no person is completely one-sided—good or bad, pure or tainted. But the cast didn’t seem to live in this world.  When did they eat, drink, get stoned, make love (not war!), work, study, play? 

Wendy (Ann Joseph)in addresses the ensemble


Like dark drama, comedy can be a meaningful evening of thoughtful theater, but somehow, like so many liberal suburban kids, Class Dismissed was just a lot of talk. Was that the message of Class Dismissed? Is that the way we were?

Class Dismissed is directed by Victory Gardens Artistic Director Dennis Zacek, and stars Jennifer Avery, Marc Grapey, Tim Grimm, Ann Joseph, Steve Key,
Jessica London-Shields, and Aaron Roman Weiner.   Designers include Mary Griswold (sets), Tatjana Radisic (costumes), Joe Cerqua (sound), and John Culbert (lights).  Tina M. Jach is production stage manager.

The playwright

Jeffrey Sweet’s  plays have won the Jefferson Award (and three Jefferson nominations), two American Theatre Critics Association playwriting awards.

The director

Dennis Zacek has directed more than 250 productions since Victory Gardens' founding, most recently Relatively Close by James Sherman, A Park in Our House by Nilo Cruz ("One of the best of 2007" - Wall Street Journal), Cynical Weathers by Douglas Post, and VGT’s inaugural production at the Biograph, Charles Smith's Denmark.

Performance schedule
Regular performances are April 1 through 26:  Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm;  Friday at 8 pm;  Saturday at 5 pm and 8:30 pm;  Sunday at 3 pm.  

Tickets are $20 - $48.   Added matinees performances are Wednesday, April 15 and April 22 at 2 pm.  No evening performance Tuesday, March 31 or April 14.

Victory Gardens' Biograph faithfully restored marquee


Victory Gardens Theater
Recipient of the Regional Theater Tony Award, Victory Gardens is primarily devoted to new work, and has presented more world premiere mainstage productions than any other Chicago theater.  Currently celebrating its 35th season, Victory Gardens emphasizes the work of Chicago writers and its own 14-member
Playwrights Ensemble.

The Victory Gardens Biograph Theater is located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood.  For tickets and information,
call the Victory Gardens box office - 773.871.3000 - or visit victorygardens.org.

Photos: Liz Lauren

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