Your Chicago Guide’s tickets for two to the press viewing of Last Night and the Night Before courtesy of Steppenwolf Theatre.
Steppenwolf Theatre, the nation’s premier ensemble theatre company, continues its 47th season with the Chicago premiere of Last Night and the Night Before by Donnetta Lavinia Grays, directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton. The play is currently on stage at the Downstairs Theatre through May 14, 2023. Last Night and the Night Before features ensemble member Namir Smallwood, with Ayanna Bria Bakari, Sydney Charles, Kylah Renee Jones, Aliyana Nicole and Jessica Dean Turner.
Monique and her daughter Sam are on the run. From what, they will not say. Showing up on their family’s doorstep in Brooklyn, the surprise visit raises more questions than it answers. As the specter of their abandoned life in Georgia creeps back into focus, the family is forced to consider what must be sacrificed to raise a child in an often-cruel world. Donnetta Lavinia Grays’s heartbreaking and poetic portrait of love – Black, queer, familial – is a bold tribute to the enduring promise of tomorrow.
The opening moments of Last Night and the Night Before offer an impression more than a full introduction. On a darkened stage, a man bends into the work of digging a grave. Played out against the backdrop, this slice of a scene hints at violence but also connection. While the play touches on the former, it is very much about the latter, about how those with means can come through but those without can love just as fiercely.
Ten-year-old Sam and her parents are the fractured family at the heart of Donnetta Lavinia Grays’ drama. On the heels of that somber start, Monique and daughter Sam arrive at the stoop of sister Rachel’s brownstone in Brooklyn. Monique and Sam are on the lam. But why? And where’s Reggie, Sam’s father? While it’s soon clear Monique is the troubled younger sister, the extent of her problems is borne out through a gradual reveal, with playwright Donnetta Lavinia Grays building much of the suspense through what we don’t know. Like most junkies, Monique is naturally inclined to vague answers, fact omissions and outright lies, but what’s brought her from rural Georgia to her sister’s upscale NYC apartment is of a particularly dark nature, and it takes a lot to tease it out.
Dead bodies aside, this is a show for anyone who can relate to coping with an annoying relative, confronting a tough problem that defies fixing, navigating a mismatched set of priorities between lovers, or who’s ever been challenged by the complexities of growing up. In other words, it’s a show for all of us.
Last Night and the Night Before is now playing at Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted, in Chicago’s Clybourn Corridor neighborhood.
Tickets are available at steppenwolf.org and by calling (312) 335-1650.