Antonio Edwards Suarez is shown seated onstage, his back to a platform. Behind him, drenched in blue lighting, are overlapping projections of him seated onstage.
Antonio Edwards Suarez in Antonio's Song/I Was Dreaming of a Son at Goodman Theatre Credit: Liz Lauren

Back in 2012, playwright and solo artist Dael Orlandersmith performed Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men at the Goodman’s Owen Theatre. In a series of monologues drawn from interviews with several subjects, Orlandersmith anatomized cycles of abuse and toxic masculinity through the voices of a variety of people (a preteen sex worker, a social worker) from disparate places (Coney Island; Manchester, England). By tying together stories of both victims and predators, Orlandersmith showed how easy it can sometimes be to move from the former to the latter.

Orlandersmith’s influence, if not her physical presence, is now onstage at the Goodman’s Owen Theatre in Antonio’s Song/I Was Dreaming of a Son, a solo piece she cowrote with performer Antonio Edwards Suarez. First presented at Milwaukee Rep under the direction of artistic director Mark Clements, it covers some of the same themes of Orlandersmith’s earlier show, while staying deeply rooted in Suarez’s own family history. 

Antonio’s Song/I Was Dreaming of a Son
Through 5/28: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM; also Tue 5/16 7:30 PM, Sun 5/21 7:30 PM, Thu 5/25 2 PM; touch tour and audio description Sun 5/21 2 PM (touch tour 12:30 PM), ASL interpretation Sat 5/27 2 PM, Spanish subtitles Sat 5/27 8 PM, open captions Sun 5/28 2 PM; Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, 312-443-3800,, $15-$50

The opening moves from Suarez’s mundane story of taking care of his five-year-old in his rehearsal studio—on a day when he thought he’d be free of parental obligations and could just focus on creating—to a horrifying physical and verbal assault on his son. 

Suarez then takes us back in time to his childhood in Bushwick, Brooklyn, growing up with his sister, Pinky. Their father is a gunrunning Black man with sickle cell anemia. Their mother is Puerto Rican and Irish, disabled from a childhood bout of polio and embittered by out-of-reach dreams of a glamorous life in nightclubs. The other men and boys on the streets seem to demand that Suarez choose between the Black and Puerto Rican parts of his identity, while his homelife is divided between his father’s love and his mother’s rage—a rage that his father is seemingly powerless to counter, despite his obvious attachment to his kids.

Seeing Mikhail Baryshnikov on television gives Suarez’s young self a sense of how to express himself as a full whole person, rather than a collection of shifting personas adopted for the sake of survival and fitting in. But even then, the hypermasculine world around him and his mother’s disdain seem poised to thwart his creative dreams.
Suarez is a fluid and compelling performer, mostly because he makes us feel that every step of his own story is still fresh in his own memory and etched into his flesh and bones. Alexandra Beller’s movement direction captures the visceral rage and tension as well as the joyous release embodied in his narrative.

And while there are certainly some familiar elements (Suarez’s life-changing encounter with Baryshnikov’s art reminded me of John Leguizamo’s story in his 1998 solo show Freak of his youthful epiphany watching A Chorus Line), Suarez roots the piece in his own aching quest to understand how the past shaped him, and yet also gave him the tools to break past the limitations and cycles he inherited. He doesn’t ask us to forgive him for the harm he caused, but he does make us understand how people can’t erase their past. They can only try to change their stories moving forward.