Roan @ the Gates traces the consequences of whistleblowing | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Review

Roan @ the Gates traces the consequences of whistleblowing

American Blues Theater takes a page from the Edward Snowden story in its latest.

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

"You're a traitor to me." Everything about Roan @ the Gates, the magnificent show by playwright Christina Telesca Gorman, directed by Lexi Saunders, hangs on the way Nat (Jasmine Bracey) chooses to inflect that line.

Nat speaks it to Roan (Brenda Barrie), a dissident NSA whistleblower and Nat's wife. Much like Edward Snowden, Roan makes a series of revelations about American intelligence so damning that she has to secure emergency asylum in Russia. Nat, marooned stateside, communicating with Roan over glitchy encrypted video calls, could be saying: "You're a traitor to me—just like the news, the feds, and everybody else says you are."

But she isn't saying it like that. Nat, a public interest lawyer, believes in Roan's cause and wants nothing more than to help out. Her love is clumsy, all-assertive. Bracey crafts her role into a many-sided study in what intimacy means: she's a believer in touch, in deep private understanding between souls. She knows, for instance, that Roan only cries to one song ("The Star-Spangled Banner"). But Roan's selfless patriotism—her "grand gesture," as Nat puts it—comes at the cost of shutting Nat out completely. Having never agreed to be anyone's sacrifice to the public good, Nat stakes everything on her refusal to let Roan's heroism drown out her hurt. "You're a traitor," she announces, fully aware of how self-righteous it sounds, "to me."

This American Blues Theater production thrives in that hopelessly messy space between public and private responsibility, and should be seen by anyone who's ever been trapped there, as we all have.  v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment