A group of politically engaged Chicago north siders gets together for a casual Fourth of July barbeque in Rebecca Gilman’s 2007-set slice-of-life backyard debate drama. In the tradition of most dinner parties in plays, otherwise-civilized adults devolve over glasses of sangria and bottles of Oberon into sneering and shouting jackasses in the midst of multipronged existential crises related to getting older.
In order to propel the conversation into dramatically juicy territory, Gilman unconvincingly gives everyone whiplash-inducing character turns wherein they utter truly jaw-dropping statements to one another, especially when it comes to the decision of whether or not to bear children. The fact that sixtysomething landlords Karen and Tom (Lynne Baker and Javier Carmona) have a seemingly healthy childless relationship is unconscionable to pregnant Windsong (Maggie Antonijevic) and her husband, Dan (Nick Freed), who interrogate this super common decision like anthropologists discovering a new species. Likewise, the landlords condescend to the younger couples about the misery of parenthood and choose the occasion of the party to pre-evict tenants Melinda and Jasper (Sara Pavlak McGuire and Martin Diaz-Valdes), who are trying to conceive despite clearly not being on the same page about reproducing from minute one.
To its credit, The Crowd You’re in With does feel like a representative snapshot of its era, both politically and theatrically, but both worlds have matured exponentially in the past decade. Besides gender-swapping one ancillary character, Derek Bertelsen’s AstonRep production doesn’t make much of a case about what its arguments say about the world today. v