Hit the Wall
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[NOTE: Hit the Wall posted an early closing notice on May 14. Patrons who purchased tickets for dates beyond May 25 may exchange for an earlier date or obtain a refund.]
Chicago Commercial Collective at Greenhouse Theater Center. By Ike Holter. Directed by Eric Hoff. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins; no intermission.
Theater review by Dan Jakes
In the interim since Ike Holter's docudrama about the 1969 Stonewall riots first smashed its way through the Chicago theater scene in 2012, the LGBT community has had a list of reasons to celebrate. The U.S. Senate and the NBA saw their first openly gay members, a bill passed by anti-gay Arizona lawmakers received national public scorn so resounding that not even Republican Gov. Jan Brewer would sign her name to it, and if same-sex couples in Chicago are so inspired after leaving the Greenhouse Theater Center to march down to the Cook County clerk's office and demand an Illinois marriage license, well, they can do that now, too.
The extra air of a victory lap makes the Inconvenience's fabulous remount, presented by the Chicago Commercial Collective and directed by Eric Hoff, all the more satisfying. After a 2013 detour at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York, most of the original cast has returned to the original staging, and additions Steve Casillas (stoop insult-queen Tano) and Sara Kerastas (butch lesbian Peg) make Holter's characters their own. The spontaneous, raucous energy that first made Hoff's production such a hit too is alive and well in this production, which is part concert, part revolt.
The specific events of the early morning, as a homophobic cop (Walter Briggs) reminds us throughout, are not exactly clear. What is known provides the outline for ten fictionalized archetypes—naive queer newbies (Daniel Desmarais), wealthy closet cases (Layne Manzer), rhythmic, activist power dykes (Shannon Matesky)—to collide in a messy montage that, unbeknownst to them, cascades into a movement.
In hindsight, revolutionaries seldom resemble the dignified, quiet placards and statues their sacrifices inspire, and neither does Holter's mob; largely, they're drunk, young, horny, sweaty and pissed the hell off. Add to that cocktail of personalities one routine police raid during the last-call hours at a Greenwich Village gay bar too many, and the proceeding chaos that breaks loose (amplified by a lo-fi onstage band) is a funny, righteous, infuriating blur. As a drag queen with weaponized reads and a pair of heels that ignite the night, Manny Buckley is the Stonewall spirit cinched up in a dress.