Three men stand in a cluster, looking at a phone screen with looks of surprise on their faces.
Tommy on Top at PrideArts Credit: Marisa KM

The Chicago premiere of British playwright Chris Woodley’s Tommy on Top, now playing at Pride Arts Center, is a witty farce that elevates crucial questions about representation and authenticity in contemporary media. 

The show is centered on Tommy Miller (Ryan Cason), a closeted actor who’s just been nominated for his first Academy Award. He’s the favorite to win, and his boyfriend George (Patrick Gosney) and sister Molly (Theresa Liebhart) have joined him at a suite in Beverly Hills to celebrate ahead of the ceremony. However, their evening takes a turn when a celebrity blogger threatens to out Tommy with some photos of him and George. At the request of his manager, it’s been paramount that Tommy hide who he is for the sake of his career, especially since no openly gay man has ever been awarded an Oscar for performing. 

Tommy on Top
Through 7/17: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM; also Sun 7/3-7/17 3 PM; Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, pridearts.org, $35 ($30 students/seniors)

From there, the throughline of Tommy on Top is whether he and his team can pull off a ruse to prevent the blogger from revealing the photos. But the more compelling question that emerges is whether or not Tommy will ever get to live an authentic life and maintain his position as a Hollywood heartthrob.

In spite of the silliness that the group concocts to protect Tommy, the stark realities of what it means to be gay in Hollywood are never lost on the characters or the audience. Director Jay Españo successfully blends the show’s slapstick comedy and of-the-moment references with the hard truths that Tommy’s predicament reveals about the biases that persist in environments that claim to have progressed past them.