“Well, look who’s come to dinner!” bellows Gerald (Ronald L. Conner) to the neighbors he and wife Patricia (Sydney Charles) have invited to their home in Inda Craig-Galván’s WELCOME TO MATTESON! But the neighbors here aren’t white or interracial, and nobody’s trying to marry anyone else’s daughter. That aside, the parallels to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner are apt, though Craig-Galván’s play digs into a lot of meaty issues over 90 minutes, much of it focused on class and economic anxiety in Black communities.
WELCOME TO MATTESON!
Through 10/1: Thu-Fri 7 PM, Sat 2 and 7 PM, Sun 2 PM; Wirtz Theatre in Abbott Hall, 710 N. DuSable Lake Shore Dr. (entrance on Superior), congosquaretheatre.org, $45 ($75 radical generosity tickets cover one admission plus an additional sponsored admission for a community member; contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on donated tickets.)
Corey (Anthony L. Irons) and Regina (Alexis J. Roston) have recently moved to the south suburb of the title as a result of the closing of Cabrini-Green. Under duress, tightly wound Patricia has agreed to host them as a neighborly gesture. But from the jump, it’s clear that she doesn’t think much of them. (She keeps the good red wine for herself and serves cheap moscato to the guests.) Regina, who’s studying interpersonal communications at Governors State, calls out the microaggressions from Patricia, while Corey and Gerald try to bond over furnace maintenance tips.
Deftly staged by artistic director Ericka Ratcliff, this rolling world premiere at Congo Square is sharp, smart, and acted to comic perfection by the cast of local heavyweights. I found some echoes of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Fairview, but here Craig-Galván is exploring internalized racism rather than stereotypes imposed by white supremacy (which really is the same thing, actually). A late-in-the-play shift to Jordan Peele territory is a bit jarring, but builds effectively on the clammy unease just beneath the surface we’ve already glimpsed.