Written by Tracie Letts, The Minutes stars Billy Peterson as the mayor of a middle American town called Big Cherry. The play focuses on a town council meeting where the newest member of the council can’t stop wondering why no one will answer his questions about Mr. Carp, a councilman who’s no longer on the council or why last week’s meeting minutes are delayed. No one is willing to explain this.
As the meeting on this stormy night proceeds, the audience is treated to jibes about small towns and their small minds. The Steppenwolf Ensemble members Francis Guinan plays the oldest council member who goes on and on, annoying many with his suggestion on what to do with the freed up parking space. This issue hints at the problem, the elephant in the room, which is the absence of councilman Mr. Carp. Whenever Carp’s name comes up, the council members get silent. What are they hiding?
Like a dark version of Parks and Recreation, Letts satirizes the trivial aspects of small town government. Should a Lincoln Smackdown be part of the town’s festival? Should the town pay for a new fountain commemorating their history and enabling people with disabilities to see clear to the bottom be funded? (Trivial to those on the council who aren’t the least bit PC.) Should Mrs. Innes be allowed to ramble on and on?
You know there’s more to Mr. Carp’s absence and, of course, the title clues you into the significance that last week’s meeting minutes have not been presented. But I highly doubt you’ll guess the disturbing end to the play, which finishes at the Steppenwolf January 7 and then will open on Broadway.
The performances, as is the case 99% of the time at Steppenwolf, were great. Both Billy Peterson and Cliff Chamberlain, who plays the town newcomer who wants to be active in town politics so he can make a difference, were excellent.