With "Sender," Urbanite Brings Chicago Grit to Downtown Sarasota

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY JAN 10, 2020

Chicago has a reputation as a rough city, and whether or not that reputation is warranted, a play by one of its hottest up-and-coming playwrights promises to challenge Sarasota audiences with its colorful language, flawed characters and racy sexual themes. The play is called “Sender,” and it is part 1 of a 7-play series of loosely-connected stories by playwright Ike Holter, a Chicago native poised to break out in 2020 for his powerful, timely work.

The play opens with a quirky twist: a man who was thought by his friends to be dead returns and upends the tenuous peace they have all made in moving on. His mysterious reappearance and desire to make up for lost time and past mistakes rips through their lives like a tornado, forcing each of them to take responsibility for themselves. And, some of the contemporary issues explored by the play—student loan debt, arrested development, sexuality—belie the universal themes explored, which bodes well for a play about millennials being performed to an older audience.

“The characters all in one way or another embody some of the things that make other people look down on millennials,” says Brendan Ragan, Co-artistic director of Urbanite and director of this production. “But, ultimately, the characters are dealing with the same problems as any other family drama,” he says, “secrets, infidelity, substance abuse; it’s just that they aren’t a traditional, nuclear family.” It all amounts to a play that promises to portray the despondency and angst of the Millennial generation in all of its self-reflective, insecure, foul-mouthed glory.

“Ike’s language is gorgeous,” says Mary Williamson, who reprises her role as Tess, a role she played when the play premiered in Chicago in 2016. “It’s heightened yet realistic, rhythmic and chaotic,” she continues, and altogether serves to accentuate the manic lives of the four millennial characters who all, in one way or another, are struggling with the looming threat of their belated adulthood. And, like the play’s protagonist returning from the dead, Urbanite’s production is also an opportunity for Williamson to reflect on her own growth, both personally and as an actress.

“This will be the first time I’ll revisit a character with a totally different company,” she says, “and I’ve had more life experience, so I’m a different person and Tess is a different person.” For Williamson, having more life experience means she can better understand her troubled character, and Ragan hopes this translates into something universally relatable for Sarasota audiences. “The play is about growing up, but also about healing and owning yourself,” says Ragan. Nonetheless, “Sender” will continue Urbanite’s aim to push the boundary on what Sarasota audiences are used to.The play opens tonight at 8 pm and promises to evoke any combination of gasps,
laughs, eye-rolls or tears. It runs through February 16th.

Credit Jack Cooper for the photo, and include this caption:

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