You Got Older by Clare Barron, was a salute to the rising generation and a love letter to those of that generation who find themselves having to say goodbye to the people who raised them. The play doesn’t dwell on the comedy or the tragedy but rather on the story itself. A story about a woman who escapes from getting dumped by her boyfriend and losing her job to return home to be with her father who is battling cancer. Though she is at home with a father she loves, she frequently finds her thirst for intimacy going unquenched, hilariously displayed through her fantasies about a lone cowboy that has the audience laughing a cringing at the same time.
Caroline Neff, who stars as Mae, is relatable, charming and brutally honest. Her dry delivery of comical lines leaves the audience rolling while her natural presence entrances them into believing her character is living right before their eyes. Francis Guinan’s, Dad, is the wholesome and sweet father that you would definitely want to garden with. Guinan’s performance is a reminder that the jewels are in the detail. The vulnerability that laces through his straining voice or a funny face while laying in a hospital bed drinking water from a sponge are all moments that make the inevitable phone call more and more dreaded. Speaking of family, Emjoy Gavino, David Lind and Audrey Francis are the siblings you have always wanted. The presence of their characters on stage eased the tension and loneliness of Mae, and in-turn, the audience, endures. Their guffaw inducing conversations make even a hospital room seem like a party. Now, let's address the cowboy in the room. Gabriel Ruiz steals the stage any time he steps on it. As the cowboy became known, all it took was for him to walk on stage for the audience to erupt in laughter. But the crowd favorite slowly becomes the villain as both Mae and the audience realizes the fantasy of the mysterious cowboy is no substitution for true intimacy and provides no sexual relief. But of course, the audience can root for the hope of true intimacy with Glenn Davis, Mac, who plays the funny, long-lost friend of a sister who can make a career out of breaking the tension. All in all, the ensemble creates real humans rather than characters (or, perhaps, real fantasies in the case of the cowboy.)
Under the direction of Jonathan Berry, the entire team does an excellent job of making exciting, interesting and simply good theatre. Playwright Clare Barron masterfully blends the comedy and tragedy of life with a family while honestly dealing with the need for sexual intimacy. Barron doesn’t write about life in a clean-cut way, but rather makes it messy and difficult to truly understand. Indeed, there are parts of the play that were difficult to interpret, but the purpose of a play is not to spoon feed the audience a story. Good theatre should force the audience to think deeply and critically. Barron certainly accomplishes this with her work.
You Got Older runs through March 11. For more information, visit steppenwolf.org.