Expert Performances Make ROZ AND RAY Powerful and Personal

Expert Performances Make ROZ AND RAY Powerful and Personal

(l-r) James Vincent Meredith and Mary Beth Fisher. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Review: ROZ AND RAY at Victory Gardens Theater.

By Erin Shea Brady

“Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.” – Hillary Clinton

Though my intention is not to get political in this review, the above quote, cited often by Hillary Clinton throughout her campaign, rang in my head throughout Chay Yew’s powerful production of Karen Hartman’s ROZ AND RAY.

History books remember the events that define a culture. They remember the numbers, the dates, the propaganda — but, too often, they don’t account for the human perspective. What does change feel like, the moment it happens?

Over the past two weeks, I’ve learned some things about change on a national scale, and a personal one. Change is messy. Change is figuring out how to navigate paralyzingly uncertainty. Change is – how do I talk to my family now? How do I define myself if not by the establishments, the industries, the cultures I have always trusted and put faith in? When I can’t recognize my values in the world that I’ve built for myself, how do I know what choices to make?

Hartman’s ROZ AND RAY takes a global crisis and makes it personal, without losing the gravity of its reach. In performances expertly given by Mary Beth Fisher (Roz) and James Vincent Meredith (Ray), we truly feel the heartbeat of the AIDS crisis, the heartbeat of what words like “lost” and “cope” and “survive” truly mean.

Roz is a woman at the bottom of the totem pole, the only woman in her class to pursue a career in alignment with her degree, who wants to be a “different kind of doctor”, for whom medicine is personal — “not because [she’s] female, because [she’s] human”. I am always struck by Fisher’s ability to reveal the many layers of her character’s humanity so seamlessly. It’s refreshing to see such a fully-drawn woman at the helm of this story. Ray is both parents to two twin boys battling hemophilia. Meredith gives a passionate and moving performance. We see, above all, his desire to do the right thing for his boys at every turn, to make a life for them.

The chemistry between the two is lovely. For a subject matter that’s quite grim, these characters are very, very funny. Hartman’s play is masterful – their journey is specific and impactful and thoughtful every step of the way. It is truthful, even as it unfolds in ways we wouldn’t anticipate. For those of us who are new to adulthood and newly aware of how much power our government can hold, this play is an important reminder that the AIDS crisis, the willful ignorance of the Reagan administration, was not so long ago.

So what do we do?

Though we each have our own superpowers, and in our way, potential to affect great change, we are not superheroes. We can’t always stop the meteor, even when we see it coming. But we can pledge to do all the good we can, to reach that good as far as we can, to use our superpowers in the most effective way.

Sometimes that good is about resistance, revolution, making our voices heard. Sometimes it’s about companionship, forgiveness, and love.

We talk a lot these days about love – “love, not hate”, “find the love”, “share that love”. In its way, ROZ AND RAY may be one of the great love stories of our time.

ROZ AND RAY runs November 11th-December 11th at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue. For tickets and information, call the Victory Gardens Box Office, 773.871.3000, email [email protected], or visit Ask the Box Office about student tickets ($15), senior, and Access. For group discounts, call 872.817.9087.

About author

Erin Shea Brady

Erin Shea Brady is a contributing writer and critic at PerformInk and Newcity Stage. Directing credits include: Everybody (Brown Paper Box Co.) and Cabaret, Annapurna (staged reading) and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (No Stakes Theater Project). Erin has assistant directed and dramaturged productions at the Goodman, Jackalope, TimeLine, A Red Orchid, Northlight, and Remy Bumppo. Erin is a graduate of the directing program at Columbia College Chicago, the internship program at Steppenwolf, Jackalope's inaugural Playwright's Lab, and participated in the Goodman's Criticism in a Changing America bootcamp. Erin is a company member with Brown Paper Box Co. and is currently pursuing her MSW at Loyola.