An Audience Member’s Love Letter to ‘The Recommendation’
Photo Credit: Andrea Klohn
The Recommendation converges the life lines of two young men who meet for the first time at Brown University during freshman year. Aaron Feldman (referred to as Feldman or Felly) and Iskinder Iodouku (or Izzy) came to the university from wildly different backgrounds. Aaron (played by Julian Hester) comes from generational wealth and a family with a multitude of connections. While Izzy (Michael Aaron Pogue) is the son of an Ethiopian immigrant and worked hard for his spot in the Ivy League.
Though Izzy does make clear the discomfort of others assuming affirmative action was his path into the college. A member of the audience confirmed that awkwardness by responding to Izzy’s point about the rumor by saying “that’s you, right?”
Good on Pogue for continuing with his monologue post cringeworthy interruption. But that interjection ignited a fascination in me for this particular audience.
At a 34 person capacity the immersive experience at Windy City Playhouse has audiences literally walking the lines between racial injustice on a plethora of stages. The three hander playing out systematic inequity in front of a group of all white, and largely white haired, faces.
All of this focus on the criminal justice system, and its unjustness, seen on the day the news of Jeffrey Epstein’s mysterious death broke. The show was heavy for so many reasons.
For the white folks in the audience (AKA the whole audience) and myself included the show is an all too dire reminder of white privilege. The privileges we acknowledge on a daily basis and the ones we don’t always consider. The Recommendation offers a place to stand, quite literally, only steps away from someone who is wronged in such an infuriating way, but does not offer us a chance to right it.
A difficulty of doing such an intimately immersive show is how few people can see it on any given night which results in higher ticket prices and fewer ticket opportunities. My hope is that perhaps Windy City can create an initiative to make this show even more accessible.
Additionally, the show is an examination of how much power those with power truly have. For those who are lucky enough to be granted “favor” from those in power, what does that give them? For those who aren’t that lucky, what does that mean? How much does power outweigh a person’s merits?
How does power outweigh justice?
Epstein is far from the only powerful man in the justice system. And there are too many instances to count how America’s justice system has failed our communities of color, our fellow citizens, non-citizens and fellow human beings.
Seven years after its premiere The Recommendation is as ripped from the headlines as it ever could be.
I overheard a couple audience members grumbling post show that the play was too “in your face” about race politics. So, I guess this is your warning, the play is deep in racial politics. It is a disarming snapshot of the corrupt nature of this country’s relationship with anyone that isn’t white.
If you can, go see this show before is closes on September 22. Let the characters and their circumstances bristle you. Experience the story, embrace the characters that need embracing and take a chance to decompress afterwards.
Then go and do something about the injustice. Fight back.
My recommendation? Don’t sit in the audience of life and let wrongs be committed against your fellow persons.
Immerse yourself in change.