Written by Tracey Scott Wilson and directed by Jessica Thebus, Buzzer is a controversial play at the Goodman Theatre that has received mixed reviews. Buzzer deals with issues such as gentrification, racial tension and the fear that comes with it. It’s certainly an entertaining play, with a great story and production. The play centers on a trio of friends that have moved back into a predominately black ‘ghetto’ neighborhood. Jackson (Eric Lynch), a young, successful, black lawyer, buys an apartment in his old neighborhood in an attempt to help along the gentrification that is beginning. Jackson brings his white teacher girlfriend, Suzy (Lee Stark), and his white best friend Don (Shane Kenyon). Don is a recovering drug addict attempting to restart his life. Tension arises between the three as they deal with events from the past, and problems with the locals.
Buzzer has some genuine positive factors, but it also had some flaws. The cast, for the most part, is exceptional and works well together on stage. There were no outstanding performances, and Eric Lynch’s portrayal of Jackson is a key example. Lynch’s delivery seems stuffy and seems more like Fred Armisen’s impression of President Obama on SNL than an average New Yorker. Lynch’s acting really pulls away from the play, and creates a break in the story whenever he speaks. Buzzer also features a clichéd love triangle that is entertaining to see unfold but very overdone and typical. Buzzer’s saving grace is its beautiful production done by set designer Walt Spangler, lighting designer John Culbert, sound designer Mikhal Fiskel, and production stage manager Kimberly Osgood. The set was perfectly placed to evoke a feeling of extravagance within the apartment and the depreciation and lifelessness of the street it’s on. The street lights and signs placed outside of the apartment make the set more realistic. Throughout the play, background noises such as cars racing by, blasting stereos, and street fights/conversations, create an atmosphere that is all too familiar to Chicago residents. The sound effects become absolutely essential to the storyline at points.
The story flopped due to the overdone love triangle and poor delivery. Buzzer, overall, is a mediocre story at best, with a beautifully redeeming production.