New Bruce Norris play ‘Downstate’ argues that sex offenders are people, to

From the Chicago Tribune | Sept. 30, 2018

Review by Chris Jones

Excerpts:  “Downstate,” which is a co-production with the National Theatre in London and is blisteringly acted under the direction of Pam MacKinnon, dares to do something that even Bruce Norris has not done before: to ask an audience to gather and debate the not-so-gentle proposition that sex-offenders are people too.

To embrace that trite phrase, of course, implies some degree of sympathy or empathy. In “Downstate,” which is set entirely in a group home for sex offenders, located in an unnamed Illinois community southwest of Joliet, Norris is asking us to consider a number of painful, potentially triggering things.  Norris asks those questions by showing us the crummy intersecting lives of four sex offenders.  “Downstate” is not a crude apologia for the sex offender.

The play opened, of course, days after Bill Cosby, a convicted abuser, was led away in handcuffs, and less than 48 hours after America was riven by a Supreme Court confirmation hearing that asked whether allegations of abuse should be allowed to derail the career of an enraged nominee. You might argue this is the best of all possible moments…Or you might argue, as those who have stayed silent pay the price of coming forward, that this is the very worst moment imaginable. You will have to see for yourself.   MORE

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