St. Sebastian: Things Are Never What They Seem

What happens when a former priest and his much younger lover, a white queer couple, move into a historically Black Chicago neighborhood? St. Sebastian, a new play from Refracted Theatre Company, will make you stop and take a longer look.

Your Chicago Guide’s tickets for two to the press viewing of St. Sebastian courtesy of Refracted Theatre Company.

St. Sebastian is Refracted Theatre Company’s Chicago debut production. The play is a dark comedy with a disturbing edge. Ben convinces his much younger boyfriend Gideon to move out of their apartment in the city to flip a house… but he leaves out that the new house is in a historically (and currently) Black neighborhood. When Ben befriends and employs a local neighborhood kid named Reuben, the blurry line between ignorance, activism and fear lays bare how perniciously racism hides just beyond the face of “wokeness.”

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Reuben and Gideon (Photo by Jenn Udoni-Franco)

What happens when a white queer couple moves into a historically Black Chicago neighborhood? St. Sebastian paints a vivid picture of their uphill struggle to figure out if they belong. The humor is dark. The lessons are many. The cast is three actors. In the intimate, very upclose and personal setting of The Den upstairs theatre, St. Sebastian bravely delves into the issues of race, sexuality and prejudice. Things are never what they seem though. So, when we learn that one of the men is a former priest, and the other a professional sensitivity trainer, all expectations and predictable outcomes go out the window.

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Production photo by Evan Hanover.

Refracted’s mission is to disrupt socially accepted narratives by telling the “other side of the story.” By upending audience expectations through innovation and adaptation, Refracted inspires meaningful discourse centered on empathy and humanity. Inspire discourse it did, as St. Sebastian raises multiple thought provoking questions. It motivates the viewer to look inside oneself and examine one’s own set of values. Chances are they aren’t what they seem on the surface though.

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Production photo by Evan Hanover.

Playwright Andrew Kramer comments: “Our words are our weapons we use to wound and our language our link to healing. If the COVID quarantine and the country’s racial reckoning of summertime 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that being restricted to close quarters with loved ones can be as frustratingly difficult as it can be lovely and comforting.”

“St. Sebastian seeks to explore the ways in which our most intimate relationships can also become the most volatile – especially when we disagree about matters of sexuality, race, religion and responsibility. Through lean mean-muscle theatrics and confronting, propulsive language, we’re refracting the questions of St. Sebastian directly to attending audiences. How can we learn to speak and listen just the same, instead of barking through the fence, like rabid dogs, at the faces of those with whom we disagree?”

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Production photo by Evan Hanover.

St. Sebastian twists and turns like a vortex, tying itself into knots unforseen and unexpected. Nothing is truly what it started out as, and the audience is forced to think through their own daily interactions, to confront their own prejudices. Uncomfortable at times, St. Sebastian is a welcome discomfort. Nothing exceptional ever happens within the comfort zone. By twisting the plot lines, the play leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. As good art rightfully should.

Refracted Theatre’s St. Sebastian is playing through October 2, 2022 at The Den Theatre (2B), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.

Tickets are currently available at