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  • Angela Allyn

Historic perspective at Open Space Arts



Open Space Arts space on Wilson Avenue is the kind of tiny storefront theater that has made Chicago famous. With the world in uncomfortable transition, it is the kind of experience now that can keep us open and honest with live experiences.   With about 25 seats, the play is in your lap, and it allows the kind of up close immersion in a work that cannot be replicated with a screen. 


Now onstage at Open Space (and extended) is Sunsets:Two Acts on a Beach ,a 65 minute work by gay theater trailblazer Cal Yeomans whose 70’s and 80’s writings were seminal in creating space for themes that allowed a culture to emerge from the closet between Stonewall and AIDS.


The first act is a tour de force monologue by Henry, (once Henrietta) a retired drag performer who considers it his mission to “service” the masses in the beach mens room: his “pity sex” allows him to feel meaning and usefulness after his very big life is trimmed back to living with his mother in her trailer. As played by veteran Chicago actor John Cardone, Henry has the depth and hope of a modern tragic hero. 


There is no intermission as the second act  begins, where John, played by the winsome and appealing Chris Sylvie, is looking for love at the same beach mens room.  Dan, played by Aaron Cappello, closeted and married dad arrives. A situationship ensues that maybe will develop into something more.  Played as a vulnerable and frightened construction worker who is trying desperately to square his idea of masculinity with what he most desires, their interaction takes us back to a time so very long ago when love could not speak its name. In this act we do finally  get to see Henrietta: Cardone in full glory with sparkles, dazzling costumes  (shout out to Zahrah Agha) and heels who croons classic love songs for us all to marinate in and reflect on. 


The overt eroticism of the subject matter must have been ground breaking years ago even as it is not so surprising today. The evening, as handled by director David Zak who perhaps more than anyone else in Chicago created institutional supports for gay theatre, is a gentle throwback and a wistful reminiscence as much as a historical artifact that lives and breathes. In these times of homophobia it is must see viewing for those seeking context for how far we have come and how far we need to go. 


Sunsets:Two Acts on a Beach is playing Fridays through Sundays through March 3, 2024 at Open Space Arts, 1411 West Wilson Avenue in Chicago. For tickets and information go to 




  For more reviews go to www.TheatreInChicago.com


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