Feature

Hit the Wall

Ike Holter’s new play captures both the danger and the “giddy exhilaration” of the Stonewall riots.

Steppenwolf Garage Theatre Chicago
(312) 335-1650

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Ike Holter’s new play captures both the danger and the “giddy exhilaration” of 1969’s Stonewall riots, said Zac Thompson in Time Out Chicago. The rebellion, touched off when police raided a gay bar in downtown Manhattan, gave birth to a national gay-rights movement and gets “the trappings of docudrama” in its treatment here. A live rock band sets the defiant tone while we watch 10 Stonewall participants, all of them fictional, in the hours before and after the initial violence. Holter “gives a voice” to each of them—gay or straight, black, white, or Latino—“usually in great cascades of words that ring with the pissed-off music of the powerless.”

“There is a real fearlessness” to the whole production, said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. Holter deserves credit for not letting the event’s historical weight restrict his style, instead producing dialogue that’s “rich, poetic,” and deeply personal. In one gripping scene, a drag queen goes from submitting to a cruelly invasive police search to resisting. In another, a shy lesbian tries to explain to her sister why she can’t walk away from the fight because that would require denying her sexuality. It would be years after Stonewall before the gay-rights movement gained broad acceptance, of course, but Holter and the cast brilliantly resurrect the moment when individuals accustomed to “lurking in the shadows” found themselves willing to stand collectively “in full glare, personal secrets torn asunder.”

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