“Welcome to Matteson!” serves comedian chaos for dinner

MaConnia Chesser sitting in a red chair and Cynthia Kaye McWilliams is sitting on a tan couch
Welcome to Matteson: MaConnia Chesser and Cynthia Kaye McWilliams. Picture by Andrea Phox

De'Lon Grant, Cynthia Kaye McWilliams and Charlie Hudson, II on stage in a kitchen/living room set
Welcome to Matteson: De’Lon Grant, Cynthia Kaye McWilliams and Charlie Hudson, II. Picture by Andrea Phox

A hilarious new comedy with a critical core makes its world premiere courtesy of the New Jersey Repertory Firm in Lengthy Department. It’s Welcome to Matteson! by playwright Inda Craig-Galván, a author value watching, and it offers with the trendy drawback of reverse gentrification. Welcome to Matteson! is witty and stunning, with skillful route and sharp, turn-on-a-dime performances that may go away you breathless.

The play takes place in Matteson, a suburb of Chicago, the place Black households from the infamous Cabrini-Inexperienced Housing Venture are being moved en masse to suburban neighborhoods. One such couple is Regina (MaConnia Chesser) and Corey (Charlie Hudson, III), and so they have been invited to a “welcome to the neighborhood” dinner given by neighborhood chief Patricia (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) and her husband Gerald (De’Lon Grant), who’re additionally Black.

Patricia is a tightly wound wreck, fretting over particulars giant and small as she awaits her company’ arrival. The stress between the couple is nearly palpable, and nothing Gerald says calms Patricia or alleviates her temper. In the meantime, Regina feels wildly misplaced in her new house and amongst her neighbors, a perception bolstered by a racist flier left anonymously in all of the mailboxes within the neighborhood, whereas Corey tries to reassure her by concentrating on the truth that they’re now householders in a pleasant space. Corey and Gerald, after a clumsy begin, start to bond; Patricia and Regina can’t maintain from verbally sniping, exhibiting their mutual snobbishness towards one another. Issues go from dangerous to worse, though with temporary, hilarious moments of bonding between the 2 ladies.

Director Daybreak Monique Williams rigorously guides her forged by way of the multitude of plot twists, encouraging them to construct humor and pathos from a strong basis of naturalism laid down by playwright Craig-Galván. Chesser’s Regina has misgivings about her transfer to Matteson, that are comprehensible given the “present” she acquired in her mailbox, but she judges her neighbors by her biased perspective shaped over years of dwelling in inner-city tasks. McWilliams’ Patricia brings her personal prejudicial perspective of these getting sponsored to maneuver into her safe, well-off neighborhood. Each Grant and Hudson, III’s characters attempt to maintain their wives on an excellent keel but fall right into a spate of mutual recrimination in the middle of the play.

As soon as once more, NJ Rep’s design workforce creates a unified world with a small funds on the stage of the Lumia Theatre. Jessica Parks’ units, complimented by the lighting designs of Jill Nagle and Patricia Doherty’s costumes, at all times create a harmonious environment that always outshines the design groups of theatres with bigger budgets.

De’Lon Grant, Cynthia Kaye McWilliams, MaConnia Chesser, and Charlie Hudson, III are sitting at a dinning table talking and laughing
De’Lon Grant, Cynthia Kaye McWilliams, MaConnia Chesser, and Charlie Hudson, III. Picture by Andrea Phox

I’ve too usually stated that I’ve by no means been disillusioned with productions by the New Jersey Repertory Firm. Nicely, I’m saying it once more. Welcome to Matteson! is humorous and critical, brilliant and darkish, and so value seeing that it will be a criminal offense to overlook it earlier than it closes. I extremely advocate making the journey to Lengthy Department (simpler than you might suppose) to see Welcome to Matteson!

Welcome to Matteson! is introduced by the New Jersey Repertory Firm on the Lumia Theatre in Lengthy Department by way of Oct. 29, 2023. For extra data or to order tickets, go to njrep.org or name 732-229-3166.

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