The Recommendation balances hilarious excess and grim realism | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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The Recommendation balances hilarious excess and grim realism

Windy City Playhouse’s latest immersive ambulatory production offers a penetrating analysis of class privilege.


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Two college guys, unlike in privilege, in Providence, where we lay our scene. From minor grudge erupt in mutiny, where private cause makes public baths unclean. Iskinder Iodouku (Michael Aaron Pogue) is mixed race (Ethiopian father, white mother, Black in the United States). Aaron Feldman (Julian Hester) is "white as the sky is when you die" (ultrarich Brentwood lawyer father is all you need to know). Assigned as roommates at Brown University, Izzy and Felly overlook their minor differences—what's a few extra inches of luxury memory foam between friends?—to become party royalty before heading west to start law school (Izzy) and a "career" in film (Felly). Except. Felly has a lot, has always had a lot, and is so accustomed to the power a lot confers that he can't see what's wrong with himself and the world. And Izzy can't rub up against it without some of it rubbing off on him.

Windy City Playhouse's immersive ambulatory production of Jonathan Caren's The Recommendation, conceptualized by Amy Rubenstein and directed by Jonathan Wilson, balances on the razor's edge of hilarious excess and wrenching realism, guiding the audience from college dorm to sushi bar to jail cell (replete with beverages for most occasions) as the story twists and twists again. Carrying the suspense are stellar performances by Hester, Pogue, and Brian Keys (as convict Dwight Barnes), who reveal their characters with sympathy and complexity. This is a penetrating experience not to be missed.   v

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