Beneath the surface, there is a lot being said in Straight White Men as it follows the most banal of Christmas’s spent with family, a situation or scenario that many would have either enjoyed or endured, and as such this scenario provides a relatable counter balance to an undescribed reality that exists outside of these walls.
The biggest drama to unfold within this narrative centres on the perceived notions of what professional success means to the individual, which is as much as a statement about society as anything else. It is what is left unsaid that fosters the strongest sense ill-feeling, skirting past issues of gender, religion, race and sexuality simply because these characters need not worry about such problems. Straight White Men provides an elusive experience when so much of the work being presented in the “now”, appears seemingly caught up in the idea of blatantly pushing an agenda. However, in performance, this is not the only option when seeking to communicate or address issues, that regardless of proximity, affect us all.
Young Jean Lee, a Korean born, American woman, is by some, argued to be one of the most important play wrights of recent years. She is known for her more confronting works, with Straight White Men, being, by any standards, rather tame, one must look deeper if seeking to provide reason for this deliberate choice. Some theatrical works designed to push an agenda, or make a statement be it political or social, go too far in this wanting, the resulting shock factor more often alienating audiences and removing any possibility of connection, or deeper resonance.
The set design and lighting is as one would expect from a main-stage production, well executed, as is much of the performance, however it is perhaps a little to polished, at times the direction given by Sarah Giles, matched with the set and lighting resulted in an experience akin to watching a sitcom, in the comfort of your living room. The rambling, not quite there, father played by John Gaden is a believable, if stereotyped character. Hamish Michael, Gareth Reeves and Luke Ryan, gave equally as impressive performances. Candy Bower, in the role of “stagehand” provided an interesting provocation and a somewhat rouge element to the work as a whole.
It’s the kind of show that unravels post performance, perhaps it is possible to argue that the greatest sense of understanding surrounding the merit of this performance, only emerges days after having seen it. Written in such a manner, that may not appeal to everyone, Straight White Men, takes a bold risk, that perhaps does not fully pay off, but in failure one also finds success. But what is art? Other than a process or product that encysts the most personal of opinion that an individual can only go so far as to elucidate
All in all, this is an intelligent and thought provoking work, and MTC should be commended for taking such a calculated risk in presenting Straight White Men, whether or not it is successful in communicating its message is a question for the individual to answer. Straight White Men has finished its season