There’s a secret behind Hollywood: deception. Behind the glamour and fame lies a trail of treachery and betrayal. Lynn Nottage’s “By the Way Meet Vera Stark” shows the story of Vera Stark and her road to fame while unmasking the dark side of the bright city. Set in the 1930’s Hollywood, Vera Stark started from the bottom. A maid to the famous Gloria Mitchell, Vera’s job was making sure the basket case didn’t fall apart in an audition for the role of her life. Vera’s fate takes a turn when she gets cast in a Hollywood movie, ironically as a maid. This sparks Vera’s successful movie career, yet she is always placed in stereotypical roles. The story then fast forwards to a group of characters analyzing Stark’s life and career, revealing the truth behind Vera.
The highlight of the production was the acting. With comedic and hard hitting roles, the actors stole the show. TaRon Patton, as Lottie McBride, proved that there are no small parts by making the entire audience laugh and bringing much levity to the play. With a story within a story, all actors were able to play two completely different characters. Patton was a prime example of this as she played the hilarious role of Lottie and completely transitioned to the serious analytical role in the second act.
Director Chuck Smith gave this production an outstanding Chicago premiere. Adding in wits and great stage movement, the play was easy to follow. Yet dealing with the long standing topic which is still relevant today, the play is a bit of a handful. While trying to portray countless topics such as the injustice of minorities, African American rights, and the inequality of minorities in Hollywood, 2 hours and 30 minutes seemed unfit to hold all these issues which have been brewing for decades.
Nottage emphasized the role of African American actors of the thirties. Only seen in stereo-typical roles, many had to go back thus acting in the way public had perceived them. Although the story is fiction, the theme is still relevant today. As the play shows many actors and actresses are treated unfairly due to race, gender and their backgrounds. Nottage sheds light on the biased side of Hollywood as African Americans, even today, are placed in roles resembling slaves, maids or gang members.
Through the story of Vera Stark Hollywood’s truth is revealed. “By the Way Meet Vera Stark” is a play of substance, sparking discussion and along with laughs.