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Jessica Thebus directs a piercing, dark comedy about friends and lovers living together in a daunting transitional neighborhood, February 8 – March 9 in the Owen Theatre

Chicago, IL – Love, race and class take center stage in Buzzer, Chicago native Tracey Scott Wilson’s intimate, darkly comic 21st-century exploration of the effects of a changing neighborhood on three cohabitating twenty-somethings—“a study of sex and the city in post-racial times” (Minneapolis Star Tribune). The trio is forced to confront the racial and sexual tensions that exist both inside their home and outside their apartment in a changing Brooklyn neighborhood. As previously announced, the cast of director Jessica Thebus’ Chicago-premiere production includes Eric Lynch (Broken Fences at 16th Street Theatre, Blacktop Sky at Theatre Seven, part of Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep); Lee Stark (The Iceman Cometh, Disgraced at American Theater Company); and Shane Kenyon (Big Love at Strawdog Theatre Company, Trainspotting USA with Book and Lyrics Theatricals). Buzzer runs February 8 – March 9 in the Owen Theatre; opening night is Tuesday, February 18. Tickets ($10 – $40; subject to increase) are available at GoodmanTheatre.org/Buzzer, by phone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office (170 North Dearborn). Bank of America is the Owen Season Sponsor, the Goodman Scenemakers Board is a Sponsor Partner and Heidrick & Struggles is a Contributing Sponsor. A performance calendar follows.

“Tracey has made a name for herself through her incisive, explosive dramas that deal with issues surrounding the contemporary African American experience. Her terrific new play, Buzzer, opens the door for thoughtful discourse about the conversations we have—or don’t have—about race, class and how best to treat each other,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls.

Hailed a “singular new voice” by the New Yorker, Wilson’s work has been seen at venues across the country; the Goodman has produced The Story (2005) and The Good Negro (2010), both directed by Chuck Smith, and Buzzer was included in the 2012 New Stages festival, directed by Thebus. A co-commission of Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater and Pillsbury House Theater, Buzzer made its world premiere at the Pillsbury House in 2012; critics unanimously endorsed the play as timely, important and simultaneously hilarious and tragic. It was remounted in a sold-out run at the Guthrie in 2013, directed by Marion McClinton.

“I have lived in neighborhoods that have been gentrified, and I have gentrified neighborhoods; the issue is always there,” said Tracey Scott Wilson. “The characters in Buzzer are of a generation that has been raised on the Disney Channel, in a very multicultural world where Beyoncé and Jay-Z are considered the biggest stars. It’s very different from someone who grew up when there were not many black characters on TV. Especially in the ‘post-racial Obama age’ we’re entering, there are the things we are supposed to say, the things we actually say and the things we really believe.”

Buzzer follows three young people as they move into a newly-rehabilitated building—one with broken buzzers—in a lower-class, urban neighborhood that is grappling with the effects of gentrification and can be dangerous. Jackson (Eric Lynch), a successful African American attorney who grew up in this neighborhood, has returned home, determined to enjoy its renaissance and build a life there. Having attended Exeter, then Harvard and Harvard Law School, Jackson managed to avoid much of the neighborhood’s strife in his younger years. Suzy (Lee Stark), his girlfriend and a teacher at a tough inner-city school, and his troubled boyhood best friend Don (Shane Kenyon)—both white, and who have a history of their own—move in with him. Don hails from a privileged background, but has extensively battled drug addiction; as a result, he is more street-smart than Jackson. The neighborhood and its newest residents’ emotional entanglement take a toll, and the apartment becomes a kind of crucible in which the ever-present urban landscape has devastating results.

Director Jessica Thebus, who previously directed Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House and Stage Kiss for the Goodman, works with Wilson for the first time. “Tracey challenges our assumptions; we’re surprised and invigorated by her argument, and we’re illuminated by the intimacy of this story. The economy of just these three very real people invites you to ask yourself, who am I judging and why? Who’s doing what? Whose side am I on? And you’re not sure quite where to position yourself as the story unwinds.”

The design team for Buzzer—Walt Spangler (set), John Culbert (lights), Mikhail Fiksel (sound) and Birgit Rattenborg Wise (costumes)—incorporates elements of Wilson’s former Brooklyn neighborhood to create a realistic setting. Added Thebus, “Don, Jackson, and Suzy are always dealing with the outside, which feels a little unstable. From the cars driving by—questioning, ‘was that a car backfire or was that a gunshot?’—to the guys on the corner to the radio, we have extraordinary designers who will make us feel like the presence of that neighborhood is there.”

EVENTS AROUND BUZZER

POST-SHOW DISCUSSIONS
Following each Wednesday performance of Buzzer, stay for a discussion about the play with members of the artistic team.
Goodman Theatre | FREE

COLLEGE NIGHT
Enjoy pizza, pop and the opportunity to mingle with other students and Goodman artists before a performance of Buzzer.
Tuesday, February 12, 6pm | Goodman Theatre | $10 with promo code COLLEGEBUZZ (must redeem with valid student ID)

ARTIST ENCOUNTER
A discussion with playwright Tracey Scott Wilson and director Jessica Thebus.
Sunday, February 16, 5pm | Goodman Theatre | FREE
Reservations are required. Call 312.443.3800 to reserve your seats.

BUZZER AND BREWS
Mingle with cast members and Goodman artists in the theater’s rehearsal space before and after a performance of Buzzer.
Thursday, March 6, 6pm Reception / 7:30pm Performance| Goodman Theatre | $60

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