Photo: Michael Brosilow




Opening Night:
July 3, 2014
August 31, 2014

Theater: Steppenwolf Theatre / 1650 N. Halsted Street, Chicago, Il, 60614


At a beachside apartment complex, a group of friends gathers for their regular evening of food, drink, drugs and partner-swapping. When Chris and Kristy attempt to become the newest members, the evening does not go as planned. The artichoke dip grows cold as the party devolves into a territorial battle over mating privileges. Does sex ruin everything? And what is the purpose of monogamy? Bruce Norris's comedy explores the eternal struggle for power, status and getting laid.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Qualms (Chicago)

    Sexual Tension and Other Diversions ‘The Qualms,’ by Bruce Norris, at the Steppenwolf Theater

    Charles Isherwood

    July 14, 2014: Wait, is this a sex party or a debating society? You half-expect someone onstage to pipe up with this pertinent question during The Qualms, a new comedy by Bruce Norris having its premiere at the Steppenwolf Theater here. The four couples gathered at a handsome beach house for an evening of what was once called swinging are ostensibly frisky and ready to repair to the “party room” for some no-strings-attached frolicking. But even when the mojitos are blended and the marijuana machine has been fired up, they still seem to evince a distracting interest in arguing the merits of marriage, the toxins of materialism, the possible connection between puritanism and imperialism and any number of other thorny matters. That bowl of festively colored condoms sitting provocatively on the coffee table comes to seem rather forlorn, more decorative than useful. Mr. Norris, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park and several other dark comedy-dramas, has often displayed a keen interest in digging beneath the surface civility of contemporary American culture to reveal the amorality, venality and even brutality that lies beneath. In his ribald and funny if lightweight new play, which comes to Playwrights Horizons next season, the characters themselves are primed to shed the constrictions of social norms and set free some of their animal urges.

  • CHICAGO SUN-TIMES REVIEW OF The Qualms (Chicago)

    ‘The Qualms’ a new play full of tired old ideas

    Hedy Weiss

    July 13, 2014: Before discussing all that is off-putting about The Qualms, the smug but vacuous play by Bruce Norris now in its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre, a definition might be in order. The dictionary explains the title as “uneasy feelings of doubt, worry, or fear, especially about one’s own conduct; a misgiving.” It is derived from the Old English “cwealm” (death or plague) and related to the Old High German “qualm” (despair). Now, to the char-grilled meat of the matter: Had I taken my seat at Steppenwolf not knowing The Qualms was a new play, I would have thought someone had opened a time capsule from the late 1960s and decided to give the script an airing for laughs, or that some grad student who had just encountered Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice — Paul Mazursky’s 1969 film about middle-class couples engaged in spouse-swapping in the heat of the sexual revolution — had decided to give it a contemporary reworking. And the response would have been: Why bother? It’s all so old, so obvious.

  • CHICAGO TRIBUNE REVIEW OF The Qualms (Chicago)

    Lusty party never gets into full swing

    Chris Jones

    July 13, 2014: Why do married — or otherwise committed — couples go to sex parties? One obvious reason presents itself. But the characters in the new black comedy The Qualms — set amid a little clutch of mostly miserable middle-aged Midwestern swingers, and the latest Steppenwolf Theatre Company world premiere from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Clybourne Park — do not so much seem fired by erotic energy as by their formidable mutual collection of crippling neuroses. When they could be diving into the fruit bowl full of condoms, they instead devote time to a discussion of the finer points of republics versus democracies. They debate the power dynamics of pornography and the morality of its consumption. They muse about the purpose (or lack thereof) of marriage. They confess personal sexual histories with the embarrassed awkwardness of adolescents drunk on three-buck Chuck. When given the chance to have a few hours of consequence-free fun in the "party room," they kvetch, bicker and do pretty much everything and anything but achieve a modicum of sensual fulfillment.

  • THE FOURTH WALSH REVIEW OF The Qualms (Chicago)

    “The Qualms” (Steppenwolf Theatre): Debauchery at its Finest

    Katy Walsh

    July 13, 2014: Playwright Bruce Norris exposes the secret life of swingers. He rips off the lid on sexual taboos and lets the condoms reign. Norris sets the scene with Teri (played by Kate Arrington) and Gary (played by Keith Kupferer) hosting their quarterly sex party. They have invited newcomers Chris (played by Greg Stuhr) and Kristy (played by Diane Davis) to experience the fun. A zealot Kupferer is pontificating about basic human urges. The wonderfully dizzy Arrington tries to derail his tirade with frequent odd musings. It’s hilarious. The tightly wound Stuhr gets more uptight the closer he gets to foreplay. Norris has created eight distinct characters and put them under the same roof for sex. Under Pam MacKinnon skillful direction, we are dropped into the members only kinky clubhouse. The conversations overlap. Flirtations turn to fondling. There is no getting in the mood. The revelers arrive completely aroused. The vivacious Kirsten Fitzgerald (Deb) bursts into the house with a suitcase of party favors. This established group has a normalcy of routine. Stuhr upsets the balance by bringing judgment into their erogenous zone.



    JerseyBoys    Phantom    Motown    Wicked