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"goodnight Irene" Opens P-net's 15th Season

"goodnight Irene" Opens P-net's 15th Season image
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I met with Ari Ro th over a cappuccino to talk abou t his play. "Goodnight Irene," Performance Network's 15th Anniversary Season opener. The play looks at truth with a capital 'T." "One way to grow up is to start telling the truth," said Roth. "Goodnight Irene' s" theme explores the tensión created by the consequences of telling the truth. Or, as Roth put it, the play explores whether truth "is a healing thing or what makes e verything fall apart." The story's protagonist, Ethan Goodman is the son of a Jewish civil rights attorney who refused to paiticipate in the white flight from his South Chicago neighborhood in the late 1960s. A family myth is constructed around these ethical "heroics." Ethan's wife is pregnant, hi "fragüe" sister is teaching in a nearby inner city elementary school and he is $25,000 in debt. His African-American, best-friendroommate-from-college, Keith, is now a tremendously successful lawyer (financially anyway) and for the first time the friends are experiencing racial tensión in their relationship. Then Ethan finds out that Keith is sleeping with his sister Cammy. Ethan and his parents believe Cammy may be following in the footsteps of a black sheepemigrant Aunt Irene who committed suicide. Irene's walk into Lake Michigan one cold Chicago night in 1969 haunts the play which segues between then and Ethan's present The 1990s ñnd Ethan struggling to launch a leftist publication called, "Repair: A Joumal for Urban Healing" in New York City. Prompted by a series of upheavals, Ethan's "Repair" takes a reactionary turn, as he is forced to confront some startling truths about himself, his family, and his closest friend. What evolves is one family' s odyssey through the costs paid when integrity is weighed against mortgages, insurance, and tuition payments flayed with racial, cultural and moral entrapments. The play does not so much discuss the break in the traditional and AfricanAmerican alliance (or any other) but more inquires into the lengths one is willing to go before ideal Lsm gives way to compromise. The play is framed by an interview between Ethan and performance artist Anna (very much like performance arüst Anna Deavere Smith) which Roth says provides a "clear-eyed documentary rendering of conflict telegraphing a message of hope ... a quintessential visión of bridging a gap between warring facüons." Ethan's interacüons with Anna provide a way for "an engaged and thinking audience to particípate," says the playwrighL 'There is a politics of resentment that gets played out on a very contemporary battlefield and the play reflecte that," says Roth. 'It is a bracing confrontation friend to friend, brother to sister, both like love and a bond" ' where the characters grow "to see themselves and the past without a cloak of nostalgia." Ultimately, "Goodnight Irene" measures the costs incurred when we : - a myth of our personal and collective past, as itchronicles the uncomfortable closeness - the almost sibling like dy sf unction between two embatüed minority communities - Americans and American Jews. Genereus business and community members who have given a great deal of funding support to stage the play are being joined by others giving their time to insure that the topics brought up there are discussed after each Sunday matinee. Playwright Roth, U-M faculty and various community organization representatives invite the public to a series of four panel discussions (following each Sunday matinee performance) on "Myth, Memory and Reality: The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s and 90s." Off-Broadway Director and KingChavezParks Visiting Professor Gilbert McCauley was brought in to direct the play. Ari Roth is a lecturer for U-M's English and Drama Departments. Hisplay was commissioned by OffBroadway'sManhattanaub.ActorPeterBirkenhead plays Ethan, Tim Rhozeplays Keith. Jennifer Jones plays Anna Nina and others. Michelle Mountain and Zehra Berkman round out the cast "Goodnight Irene" runs froni Sept 6th through the 29th at Performance Nerwork, 408 W. Washington, An n Arbor. For information and reservations p lease caU (313) 663-0681. aj!l=fiH:J=M


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