(Hedy Weiss’s article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, 5/1.)
Warren Leight’s gorgeous, heart-shredding, darkly funny “Side Man” is most often described as an autobiographical memory play. And indeed, it takes the form of a son remembering his parents’ turbulent marriage against the backdrop of a jazz era whose days were numbered.
Yet in many ways Leight’s play might more accurately be called an extended elegy — at once a lament for the dead (the living dead, in this case), a wistful remembrance of an art form once vibrantly alive but then quickly rendered all but extinct (jazz), and a determined (if achingly ambivalent) statement about the absolute necessity of moving on. At once devastating and brutally honest, it taps into the crazy conjoining of tragedy and comedy that is life, and it does so with a mix of pain and inextinguishable affection.