Travel Magazine

Soups, Stews, and Casseroles: 1976 Stirs Up Angst at Goodman Theatre

By Urbanmatter Chicago @UMatterChicago

It takes time, the perspective of time to look back and see things in a different light.

How have we changed? How have we not? That’s the “pot” playwright Rebecca Gilman has created in “Soups, ,Stews and Casseroles: 1976” now showing at the Goodman Theatre through June 19.

The scenario is familiar. A corporate takeover threatens to change the lives of the people at the Farmstead Cheese Factory in small-town Wisconsin. Who will lose their jobs? Keep their jobs? Or be promoted? The stakes are high as Gilman weaves a tale of opportunities, loyalties and moral dilemmas in the year of a presidential election as well as America’s Bicentennial celebration. This timely, thought-provoking and yet amusing theater seems as relevant today as it was in 1976.

The entire play revolves around a single setting in Kat’s kitchen, perfectly displayed as bright and spanking new as it was back then. The pecan wood cabinets, the appliances, the avocado green dishwasher and the walled telephone all scream of that year. The costumes, from the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress to hip-hugging bell-bottomed jeans take the audience back to the memorable fashions of the 1970’s.

Cliff Chamberlain as a longtime factory worker, as well as Kim Durst, truly captures the essence of a man caught up in the change and the promise of a better future for his family. But at what cost? You can see the changes taking place in his character in his dress as he becomes transformed to “management.” Cora Vander Broek plays his long-suffering wife, Kat, who once had dreams of her own, and is determined to go back to school, not letting the past define her. Ann Whitney, as family friend JoAnne, is hysterical as the character who speaks her mind in response to whatever she hears …in her good ear. Daughter Kelly, played by Lindsay Stock, is bright, motivated and wants to go to college. Her debate team dialog against the death penalty still rings true today. Angela Reed as the new, trouble-making neighbor Elaine, has enough sass and worldliness to shake up the family dynamic.

The title, “Soups, Stews, and Casseroles” is the name of a cookbook Gilman discovered at a garage sale that served as the inspiration for the play.  Beautifully directed by Robert Falls, this is the eighth collaboration between Gilman and the Goodman Theatre.

For tickets, visit The Goodman Theater website.

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