In "Straight White Men," the young Jean Lee's cutting but deeply human satire on male privilege and pain, Armie Hammer, Josh Charles, and, in a particularly heartbreaking performance, Paul Schneider play three brothers with midlife problems. In the clever staging of Anna D. Shapiro, the brothers are first observed as they go through the family Christmas rituals with their widowed father Ed (Stephen Payne), who is in all the silly jokes.
to come to this opening scene. In a head-scraping pre-curtain turn that was preceded by a few minutes of rap music (sound designer ML Dogg!), Two oddly costumed interviewees with undefined sex, played by Kate Bornstein and Ty Defoe, demonstratively revealed to the audience that they are , the so-called responsible people who are the real ones in charge. The men in their play, Young Jean Lee is determined to show us are her dolls and toys.
Once freed from the feminist claws of the show, we are in a midwestern house on Christmas Eve. In Todd Rosenthal's ultra-naturalistic design, which presents itself as a saggy sofa, a lush armchair, a lower half of an undecorated artificial Christmas tree, a battered coffee table, and a mantelpiece with four Christmas stockings that will soon be filled with plastic candy canes.
Ed, the widowed father of this male household, watches indulgently as his three adult sons, all in their forties, perform their fraternal rituals. This means beloved old routines such as fighting over who gets the iron (which earns an "undervalued domestic work bonus") in a game of "Privilege," the family's Monopoly's Tell-It-It-Is version, and improvising performance by "Oklahoma!" with a refrain series by Ku Klux Klansmen and recognition for choreographer Faye Driscoll.
The rewritten version of the play seems to have expanded and the fun and games spiced up from the original version played in public under the direction of the playwright. But who begrudge this super cast a few extra things? Charles plays an inspired game of "Privilege" and Hammer rips off his sore nipples after one of those Bro-on-Bro matches.
The brothers are such cut-ups, it is worth remembering that they are adult men, all in their 40s, and each burdened with real problems. Drew, the successful brother, played with Hammer in such a sunny mood, could be a teacher and a published author ̵
In the spirit of the season, nobody comes up with such sensitive topics, until, unexpectedly, Matt suddenly collapses and begins to cry for no good reason. The author writes so cleverly and witty that the audience is as shocked as the rest of the family. Dad thinks Matt is worried about his high student debt. Drew thinks Matt is clinically depressed. Jake thinks Matt should just be left alone.
At some point everything focuses on whether Matt is unhappy because he does not live up to his potential. Granted, Uncle Andrew drives a truck, and if he thinks about it, Dad would have been able to do more of himself than become a civil engineer. But Matt has always been the shining star among these golden boys, and his collapse unnerves them all. Was not he really the dedicated do-gooder who volunteered to work in Ghana and cheerfully teach people who did not need or want them things he did not know?
Although the piece touches many issues that are smart, well, just white men, the real question is, is it really okay not to live up to their full potential. By deconstructing the lives of these white men with all their privileges and power, Lee discovers hidden levels of deep dissatisfaction – let's bite into the bullet and call it unhappy – that point to the existential human pain typical of the human condition. To the naked eye, these privileged types seem to have it easier, but in their hearts they feel the same raw pain as the rest of us.