"You are cordially invited to attend a birthday celebration of Mrs. Suzanne Wellington at the home of Mr. Beau Coutier and Mrs. Ellie Coutier, 26 Peachtree Lane, Ashford Georgia." Thus begins an immersive theatre experience that is Windy City Playhouse's Southern Gothic. We were meant to be guests at this dinner party, fully present albeit invisible. No, no, really! From tray passed drinks and retro snacks, to scandalous intrigues, we the viewers found ourselves inside this traditional Georgia household sometime in 1960s. And what a trip it ended up being!
It’s 1961. Dean Martin’s on the radio. Everyone’s driving a Cadillac, and Suzanne Wellington is about to turn 40. Four couples gather to celebrate the big day — old college buddies who’ve known one another for decades. But even best friends keep secrets, and over the course of this evening's party, a few of those are bound to be revealed...
We sipped Tom Collins and whiskey sours while munching on Spam, Cheez Whiz and graham crackers with frosting, all the while watching the action spring up all around us. There was no way to hear everything as plot lines developed simultaneously in all of the rooms of this beautifully designed set. We were encouraged to mill about and follow the characters on their journeys. This was sort of like "choose your own adventure" show: stick with this character and find a political scandal, pick another one and here comes an extramarital affair. Multiple plot twists kept us on our toes, and truthfully we would hate to give away much. But the evening was full of drama and intrigue, and seeing it all from the inside offered a perspective so unique, it seemed like the show's 100 minute run time was over in a blink of an eye.
Southern Gothic is entertaining and well put together. It is definitely worth the price of admission. The play runs the gamut of emotions from happy to cheeky to utterly devastated, and everything in between. It reminds us how far we've come as a nation since the 60s. It cautions about repeating one's mistakes. Southern Gothic puts the vulnerability of humanity on display in sharp witty ways that make for one unforgettable dinner party.
Southern Gothic now playing through February 17, 2019 at Windy City Playhouse South, 2229 S. Michigan Ave. Buy tickets here.
The Local Touris admission for two courtesy of Carol Fox and Associates.
Photo credit: Michael Brazilow