Sheri Flanders is an actor, writer and comedian in Chicago. She is head writer for Choice The Musical, half of the comedy duo Flanders and part of the Infinite Sundaes musical house ensemble. Sheri is a contributor for Chicagoland Musical Theater, a faculty member of the Second City music program and co-owner of Flanders Consulting.
Eleni Pappageorge, Patrese D. McClain, Annabel Armour | Michael Courier Photography
By Sheri Flanders
What happens when we are forced to confront what we would prefer to ignore?
As stark fluorescent lights expose the stage and sharp feedback pierces the air, director Keira Fromm informs the audience that the option to check out has been removed from the table.
Three actors command attention and expertly paint a terrifying picture through crackling dialogue for a riveting 90 minutes. Patrese D. McClain’s character must make an awful decision while Annabel Armour and Eleni Pappageorge’s characters bear witness to the consequences.
Writer debbie tucker green’s masterfully composed U.S. Premiere of “hang” examines the ugly side of empathy, sympathy and the insulting emptiness of platitudes. In the face of the unspeakable, we often feel powerless to truly help. But really, have we even tried?
McClain, Armour and Pappageorge deftly play out the respectable socially enforced silence of unfortunate situations. Pleasantries belie the anxious attempt to make an uncomfortable situation comfortable for the observer; a cup of herbal tea carries the weight of the gentle and genteel pressure of maintaining the veneer of politeness while in the process of something awful.
How many of our knee-jerk compassionate reactions are unconsciously designed to silence others? Why do we carry the expectation that we must feel comfortable at all times?
When McClain plainly states “This isn’t me upset,” we feel the ever-present disquiet that whites have when a black woman expresses any emotion that isn’t positive or pliable.
As Armour and Pappageorge inquire, wheedle and placate insultingly, to darkly hilarious effect, and McClain responds with “I’ve discussed it with my husband, I’ve told my family,” our stomachs go queasy at the all-too-familiar banal infantilization of grown women – often by other women.
Despite our best selves, we are simply unwilling to see broken people. And when we finally do, we are too embarrassed to say or do anything of real use.
“hang” answers the question of why nothing seems to change in our society. The answer is that we willingly give up our humanity because that is what the rules demand.
The tremendous and powerful cast of “hang” poetically and exquisitely remind us that despite what tender illusions of support society may offer, one must always dance with demons alone.
“hang” runs March 21 through April 29th at the Greenhouse Theater Center at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets available at www.RemyBumppo.org