By Victoria L. Dammer
Just like relatives, you can’t choose your neighbors, especially when they are moved from the inner-city projects to your comfy suburban neighborhood.
Welcome to Matteson! is a modern-day version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but with more social problems exposed during a dinner party. The story is about forced gentrification, housing equity, and interclass relationships.
In the suburbs of Chicago Gerald (De’Lon Grant) and Patricia (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) host a dinner party for their new neighbors, Regina (MaConnia Chesser) and Corey (Charlie Hudson, III), a couple who were forcibly relocated from The Cabrini-Green Housing Projects to the tony suburb Matteson.
Patricia is uptight, struggling to communicate with her husband, and even more so with people who come from the inner city. She must drown her uncomfortableness with alcohol, which exacerbates the underlying resentment she feels towards Regina and Corey. When Regina disappears in the bathroom for too long, Patricia thinks she is robbing her house.
The chicken dinner doesn’t come out well, the conversation doesn’t either, and Regina suggests they play a game she invented while attending college to increase her communication skills. When the four must write 5 ideas on a card that are the most important in their lives and share, Patricia struggles with the simple project; her husband already knows who she is, but he faces her coldness even more so. Patricia has a dark secret that is soon to be revealed.
Playwright Inda Craig-Galvan isn’t afraid to show the audience the discomfort of interclass racial distrust, and the real winner of the troubled evening and conversation is Regina and Corey. Yes, they are from the inner city and have hit the jackpot by moving to Matteson. But they are genuine, down to earth, and thankful to God for the life they have encountered. Gerald and Patricia, despite all they have, are complicated and empty.
There were lots of laughs in the show as well, and the audience loudly responded throughout the production. But there were several gasps, as true emotions were exposed in this in-depth look at the frailties of humankind. This is a must-see presentation.
Welcome to Matteson! at the New Jersey Repertory Company. Written by Inda Craig-Galvan, directed by Dawn Monique Williams
WITH MaConnia Chesser, De’Lon Grant, Charlie Hudson, III, and Cynthia Kaye McWilliams.
Through October 29th. The running time is approximately 90 minutes.
New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, N J 07740