Outskirts Theatre Co. Explores Vulnerability with Relatable Dark Comedy
By Stephanie Harte
Photo Credit: Eddie Curran as Mac and Emmaline Friederichs as Mae in Outskirts Theatre Co.'s 'You Got Older.' Photo by Robert J. Colletta.
When Greg Ryan shared the script for You Got Older with his wife, she immediately told him he’d be crazy not to audition for the role of the father.
“One of the nice things about this play in general is the dialogue between the kids and my character is so true to real life,” Ryan explains. “In other plays that I’ve done it feels stilted, but here it feels really natural.”
Ryan feels a personal connection to his character (a man only referred to as Dad throughout the script) in Clare Barron’s unconventional dramedy. Ryan is in his 60s and has a daughter in her 30s, which helps him channel the father-daughter relationship at the center of You Got Older.
You Got Older follows Mae (Emmaline Friederichs), who gets dumped and fired on the same day, as her ex-boyfriend also happened to be her boss. Feeling lost and confused, she moves back home to take care of her cancer-stricken father.
“The hardest part for me is letting myself access that vulnerability,” Friederichs says. “During the first week of rehearsal I was constantly listening to my own dad’s voice in my head. I was like ‘no no no don’t do that, that’s bad,’ but it does make you think about how you would respond to a family tragedy like this. A lot of ways Mae tends to respond in the show is true to how I’ve dealt with things.”
Maddi Conway, Outskirts Theatre Co. artistic associate and director of the company’s upcoming production of You Got Older, says the script has a very millennial feel to it, which make sense as playwright Barron is in her early 30s. You Got Older premiered in New York in 2014 and was produced by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater last season. Barron also took home a 2015 Obie Award for Playwriting for the piece.
“It’s our sense of humor for our generation,” Conway explains. “It doesn’t follow the traditional structure of a play. It’s not like there’s a beginning, a perfect middle climax and then this neat and tidy resolution. The ending is very reflective of life.”
Along with the stress of caring for her father, Mae compulsively worries about a lump on her neck, a rash on her back and the status of her sex life, which is currently being replaced by erotic dreams about a Cowboy (Rob Schreiner). Conway says that these fantasy sequences pace the show in a clever format, as well as help audiences get inside Mae’s head.
Emmaline Friederichs as Mae and Rob Schreiner as Cowboy. Photo by Robert J. Colletta.
“I think a lot of the moments that will be striking to people are the scenes where Cowboy shows up because it’s weird in comparison to what else is going on,” Schreiner says. “(With Cowboy) I get to be a caricature of certain aspects of myself or even just a joking personality. It’s fun to put a lot of energy into something you typically don’t express in everyday life.”
Rounding out the ensemble includes Teddi Jules Gardener, Ava Bush and Frankie Steitz as Mae’s siblings, along with Eddie Curran as Mac, a potential hometown fling that Mae sneaks off to meet at a bar.
“My character is the most cringey awkward boy ever,” Curran jokes. “The first time I read the script I thought it was such a strange dichotomy between funny and sad. It’s really a rollercoaster.”
Emmaline Friederichs as Mae, Frankie Steitz as Hannah, Ava Bush as Jenny and Teddi Jules Gardener as Matthew. Photo by Robert J. Colletta.
You Got Older flawlessly aligns with Outskirts current season dedicated to strong female roles on stage and off, which Conway had in mind when selecting the show. Outskirts assembled an all women production team for the show, including stage manager Abbi Hess, lighting designer Ash Hohnstein and Steitz working double duty as actress and scenic designer.
Along with exploring the complex way Barron depicts Mae's crisis, Conway has also enjoyed orchestrating the scenes between our down on her luck protagonist and her siblings.
“The sibling scenes are so beautifully written because a lot of the text is overlapping,” Conway says. “They are always speaking at the same time, which is something my siblings and I always do and we call it ‘rah rah rahing.’ Even if you don’t see one another every day or keep in contact every day, there’s a closeness that is understood."
You Got Older, presented by Outskirts Theatre Co., runs Jan. 11 – 20 at the Underground Collaborative, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. For tickets visit bit.ly/YouGotOlder