[Editor’s note: We’re Gonna Die returns for an encore run at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre in March 2018. Below is our capsule review of the original 2017 run.]
Our inevitable, imminent demise may not seem the most celebratory of topics, but in the experimentalist playwright Young Jean Lee’s genre-defying, thoroughly disarming We’re Gonna Die—a kind of theatrical, rock & roll cabaret act first performed by the writer in 2011 and given its Chicago premiere here by Haven Theatre—we find that death really becomes us. Standing in for Lee, punkily winsome Isa Arciniegas alternates relating personal-tragedy tales about childhood rejections, bad breakups, and parental illnesses with wry rock songs, with a beguiling four-piece band backing tunes with funny-because-they’re-true messages about the inexorability of mortality. As if by magic, the act of acknowledging our collective fate makes it all seem not just okay, but cool—and worth singing along to.
Haven Theatre at the Den Theatre. By Young Jean Lee. Directed by Josh Sobel. With Isa Arciniegas, Sarah Giovannetti, Jordan Harris, Spencer Meeks, Elle Walker. Running time: 1hr 5mins; no intermission.