The set is simplistic, stark, and opposing. On one end of the stage a bed sits looking plump and comfortable, stacked with pillows and a fluffy comforter. On the opposite end, a hard metal desk and chair with a pack of Redbull sitting next to an industrial coffee maker. The back wall stands imposingly high, almost like an impossible barrier to break, yet with a glimpse at a blue sky in times of happiness and hope.
First we meet a young, African American couple sit in a Chicago apartment discussing their next steps together. He lives in Texas, and she’s struggling to find a new job. He wants her to move down to be closer to him. She doesn’t want to without a job offer, or a ring.
Halfway across the country in Texas, three white officers on the night shift have their hands full with an audit, as well as dealing with personal drama between them.
GRAVEYARD SHIFT shows these two separate worlds, and the intricacies of the relationships within each of them. Then we see what happens when worlds collide.
Two Worlds Colliding on Goodman Theatre Stage
GRAVEYARD SHIFT is first and foremost a political play. It paints a picture of what can go horribly wrong when there’s an imbalance of power. Taking inspiration from the death of Sandra Bland in 2015, we follow this couple as Janelle ends up accepting a job at her alma mater in Prairie View, Texas. However, what starts as a hopeful new chapter changes drastically when she is pulled over for a minor traffic violation of failing to signal while changing lanes.
When said police officer pulls Janelle over the audience visible stiffens. We know the current landscape here in America, and the playwright intentionally makes it known this police officer on shift has been taken off active duty for a previous situation that also escalated beyond normal means.
The most striking part of this encounter, though, is there is no physical violence onstage as the situation escalates. The two stand facing the audience with only spotlights illuminating their faces. They never touch, yet their words paint this violent situation for us.
Emotions Running High
GRAVEYARD SHIFT adds more depth to it’s story as it also dives deeper into these relationships. We struggle with the extramarital affair between two police officers. We’re swooning over the loving relationship between Janelle and Kane. In this writer’s opinion, the emotions add that extra human element that bring us closer to the subject matter.
The play deals with sensitive content and might be triggering for some. GRAVEYARD SHIFT calls attention to our painfully broken system, and the damage it causes.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Debo Balogun (Kane), Keith D. Gallagher (Brian), Rae Gray (Elise), Aneisa Hicks (Janelle) and Lia D. Mortensen (Trish).
Kristen Robinson (Set Design), Montana Levi Blanco (Costume Design), Marcus Doshi (Lighting Design) and Richard Woodbury (Original Music and Sound Design). Rebekah Heusel is the Production Stage Manager.
Thru March 8, 2020
Goodman’s 350-seat Owen Theatre,
About the Author
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski