As a married woman in her 30s who has yet to have a child, I sometimes feel as if my crowd is shrinking as members “leave” to have kids. Of course, I’m not supposed to feel this way. It’s not a competition and it’s not a race. Right? So I could perhaps be considered the ideal audience member for The Crowd You’re In With, the current production by Walking Shadow Theatre Company. In fact, if you’re on the fence about having kids, going to see this production could be therapeutic—the characters take turns voicing the various questions and concerns that might run through anyone’s head as they try to make this major life decision.
In case you have yet to struggle with “the kid question,” or if the answer came easily for you, I’ll share some of these questions and concerns: What does it really mean to become a parent? How will it change me? Will I like that change? How will it change my relationship with my partner? Do I like children? Do I enjoy children? Do I need to enjoy children to have one? After all, this didn’t seem to be a concern in olden times. If I don’t have a kid, am I an outcast? Does it mean I’m a damaged, broken person? Do I care if people think I’m damaged and broken? What if I just really, really value sleep?
|the crowd you’re in with, presented through november 20 at the people’s center theater. for tickets ($18) and information, see walkingshadowcompany.org.|
In The Crowd You’re In With, Melinda (Lindsay Marcy) and Jasper (Adam Whisner) are a couple in their 30s trying to come to a decision about kids. She wants to move forward; he’s unsure. Their friends, Windsong (Bethany Ford) and Dan (Joe Bombard) are about to have their first child. In fact, the baby shower will be held in the near future at Melinda and Jasper’s apartment. Karen (Maggie Bearmon Pistner) and Tom (Jim Pounds) are a couple in their late 50s who own the apartment building and decided not to have children. And, for comic relief and the perspective of a single guy, there’s Dwight (Shad Cooper), a friend who wants to have some beers and some laughs.
This is a play that doesn’t flinch or divert from its stated objective. Just as there are no easy answers, there are no easy endings. But if you’re open to a “discussion” of the reasons we do or do not choose to have kids, this is one of the best, and only, examples I’ve seen. The inclusion of the characters of Karen and Tom, the landlords, is pure brilliance—an honest depiction of two people who love each other and enjoy their lives despite making what is often considered to be a freakish, and unpopular, decision. Bonus: they are atheists! There is a lack of portrayals of good, honest atheists in all forms of art and entertainment, something we need to work to correct.
I have never been disappointed by a Walking Shadow production. The company continues to select work that engages, challenges and entertains its audience and The Crowd You’re In With is no exception. The writing, by playwright Rebecca Gilman, is both funny and intense—the kinds of things you may wish you could say or ask if you weren’t so gosh-darned Midwestern. The production is wonderfully cast, with stand-out performances by Adam Whisner as Jasper, a young man struggling to understand what he wants out of life, and Bethany Ford as Windsong, a young woman with many aspirations but little foundation. And the intimate stage setting (a backyard barbecue in Chicago on the Fourth of July) makes one feel as if one could get up, grab some chips and join in the debate.
Instead of watching something trite this weekend, like Due Date or reruns of King of Queens, go to The Crowd You’re In With and engage. There are no right or wrong answers, but in the end, you may find yourself refreshed by that all-too-uncommon honesty.