Straight White Men was written by Young Jean Lee, the first Asian-American woman to have a play produced on Broadway. It explores the interplay of four white men who struggle and perhaps display guilt over success and privilege. The play, at the Helen Hayes Theater, is adroitly directed by Tony award winner Anna D. Shapiro, with Armie Hammer, Stephen Payne, Paul Schneider, and Cary Donaldson as the four main characters, plus Kate Bornstein and Josh Charles as narrator figures dubbed “Persons In Charge.”
The story occurs on Christmas Eve and revolves around the relationship between a retired father (Payne) and his three sons. The sons are Drew (Hammer), who is a prominent novelist and professor; Jake (Charles) a successful banker recently divorced from an African-American woman; and Matt (Schneider) who graduated Harvard, but is deeply in debt from student loans and has taken a menial job with a social-service agency and moved back into his father’s home.
This 90-minute play takes us on a journey to attempt to understand the relationship between the three brothers and their father. They reminisce about old times, burst into a dance, and ruminate on Matt’s lack of ambition and failure to live up to his ability. After all, straight white men should be go-getters, not aimless, the others say.
Straight White Men is ambiguous in its exploration of success and exploitation. The play is humorous and cohesive, but I doubt it communicates the author’s ultimate message. Still, I would recommend it for all adults for an interesting, engaging, and funny 90 minutes.