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A Powerful “Sign” Opens at the Goodman

By Urbanmatter Chicago @UMatterChicago

In the turbulent 60s, anything was possible. Enormous social changes were coming, radical political issues were raised and liberal thinking became the norm in the bohemian neighborhood of New York’s Greenwich Village.

As the story unfolds, friends, neighbors, and family all hang out in down-on-his-luck Brustein’s apartment as he writes his weekly newspaper. Considered one of Chicago’s first great playwrights, Lorraine Hansberry captures the essence of these times in The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window.

As lead Sidney Brustein, Chris Stack creates a man who is trying to keep his head above water as the world and his wife are changing around him. His performance of a man who drinks too much and strives too hard is outstanding. Long-suffering wife Iris, played by Diane Davis, lets the audience see her change as her character gets the strength to move on.

Grant James Varjas is very funny in his stoic, robot-moving portrayal of writer David. Miriam Silverman as sister Mavis captures the heart of a woman who knows what’s happening, but refuses to face it. And Kristen Magee is moving as sister Gloria, a soul in search of acceptance. Under the master direction of Anne Kauffman, this rarely-seen play is being produced as part of the Lorraine Hansberry Celebration through May.

The questions that Hansberry posed more than 50 years ago remain just as relevant today. The fast-moving dialog is clever and brilliant. One might consider reading the play as to truly catch the significance of her words.

Chicago-born Hansberry became the first African American female playwright to have her work produced on the Broadway stage with A Raisin in the Sun in 1959. This success allowed Hansberry, at age 29, to become the youngest American playwright and the only African American to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play of the Year.

In addition to earning a Tony Award nomination, Hansberry also wrote the screenplay for its 1961 film adaptation. Her second and final play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, had just begun its Broadway run when Hansberry died of cancer at age 34 in 1965.

The play runs through June 5. Tickets range from $25-$75 with special $10 student tickets. Visit, call 312.443.3800 or purchase in person at the Box Office at 170 N. Dearborn.

Image by Liz Lauren

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