The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Lorraine Hansberry’s last play closed the night she died in 1965 and hasn’t been produced much since. For that reason alone one can applaud Genevieve Hurst’s staging (which includes revisions made after Hansberry’s death by her ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff).
The main problem with Sidney Brustein is Sidney Brustein. A disillusioned Greenwich Village bohemian gadfly, Brustein could be the prototype for every self-important boomer complaining over the last 40 years about the Death of the Dream and the Corruption of the System. Sidney’s central moral dilemma–should he support a reform candidate in his fledgling neighborhood newspaper?–isn’t hefty enough to carry the show, particularly since the candidate never gets enough stage time to impress us with his charisma or his ideas.
Aaron Ousley looks ten years too young to play Sidney, who’s in his 30s, but he does bring a certain cockeyed panache to the activist manque, and Hurst’s staging throws a harsh spotlight on Sid’s unsavoriness, particularly his sadistically infantilizing treatment of his actress-wannabe wife, Iris (Erica Peregrine). Meredith Siemsen delivers a smart, careful performance as Iris’s uptight uptown sister, a character who proves once again that sometimes squares are worldlier than appearances would suggest.