3 out of 4 stars
You Got Older is Clare Barron’s semi-autobiographical new play, which she describes as “a snapshot of how confused my brain was at the time, and yet I hope there’s something valuable in its rawness.” Indeed, with its musings on family, sex, and mortality, it’s easy to find something to relate to at any stage in life.
Thirty-ish year old Mae has just gotten dumped and fired, and moves back home for awhile to take care of her dad, who’s undergoing cancer treatments. She and Dad garden, sit in the backyard, and gently argue about what Mae is going to do with her life. Mae meets her old classmate Mac at a bar, and they connect over their weirdly specific kinks (she likes plucking beard hair out with her teeth; he likes pus and scabs). Sometime later, Mac (played with spot-on timing by Glenn Davis) crawls through her window ostensibly to hook up, but the two are in turns too lonely, too shy, and too sleepy to succeed. Mae’s Dad (the very satisfyingly dad-like Francis Guinan) almost walks in on them, exacerbating the tensions Mae feels (to tenderly check on Dad, or feel desperately needed human touch?) We also see an ensemble scene in the hospital with Mae’s three siblings, who lovingly squabble over him and discuss everything and nothing. These realistic scenes are interspersed with glimpses into Mae’s fantasy world, where a hunky cowboy rescues her from winter storms. This all creates a patchwork effect, a somewhat scattershot collection of situations, filled with random yet amusing dialogue. It’s slim on narrative glue but strong with a fresh perspective; the combination of the real and imaginary, the logical and fantastical, the social and private worlds, all ring true to life.
The many scene changes in the show are supported by Meghan Raham’s elegant scenic design: furniture slides on and off the stage, instantaneously switching between rooms. Caroline Neff is wonderful as Mae, a demanding role that keeps her onstage in every scene of this two-hour show. Relationships between characters are deftly directed by Jonathan Berry. Alison Siple’s costume design serves the show well with its many costume changes, and Marcus Doshi’s gorgeous lighting design adds an otherworldly effect to the scenery. It’s a beautiful production that supports the voice of an exciting new playwright.
You Got Older plays now through March 11 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company (1650 N. Halsted). Call the box office at 312-335-1650 or visit www.steppenwolf.org for tickets and more information.