Photo Credit: Brandon Wardell
“The play is about voyeurism and marriage and the thrill ride you can go on when you combine the two. Based on how well tabloid magazines still sell, to say nothing of celebrity websites, I’d say other people’s marriages are pretty interesting to a lot of people.” — Hamish Linklater
Hamish Linklater — playwright, stage actor, television and film star; father; former married person himself — knows a thing or two about being in a relationship. He’s done more than just play a spouse on TV, you could say. That’s what makes “The Cheats,” Steep Theatre Co.’s latest play, so interesting. It manages to address what many of us don’t want to acknowledge, even about ourselves, by making us do what we tend to do to other people.
The seven-member cast, very well led by director Joanie Schultz, fans out throughout the evening to display the relationship of one married couple, John and Anne, who live across the street from another married couple, Jonathan and Susie.
One house has a porch that faces the house across the street. And that’s where John often sits, smoking cigarettes, thinking and watching the time go on by. He’s doing so on his property, but his gaze often seems to be directly focused on Jonathan and Susie.
If that scene, played out over and over again on your own street, might be a bit unsettling, it’s a credit to Linklater that he slowly reels the audience in. This isn’t an invasive interest, you might tell yourself. He has a right to sit on his own porch. In fact, John is concerned about Jonathan, even though the men have rarely talked.
Why does he have a right to be concerned? Because his best friend’s wife is Jonathan’s relative, and Jonathan and Susie have just recently experienced a death in the family. It’s from his friends that John learns, or assumes, that he and Jonathan have something in common, that he can help, that this is a story he needs to follow.
When Jonathan unexpectedly stops by John and Anne’s home, it’s as a man who’s clearly not making a casual appearance. Accepted boundary lines — asking permission before playing the couple’s piano, asking if it’s alright to take a number of pieces of candy from a basket — are not something Jonathan is interested in abiding by. And when it becomes clear that Jonathan and Anne have a history that’s unknown to John, the play hits home even more.
Jonathan is checking in on the people who have been checking in on him without his consent or approval. And the audience does not get a free pass.
“The Cheats” runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. until Nov. 7. The performance on Saturday, Oct. 24, will be a 3 p.m. matinee. Sunday matinee performances are scheduled for Oct. 18 and Nov. 1 at 3 p.m.
Tickets range from $10 to $35. For reservations, call 1-866-811-4111 or by visiting www.steeptheatre.com.
Steep Theatre is located at 1115 W. Berwyn Ave.