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I Believe You, Bruce: A Review of Downstate at Steppenwolf Theatre Company | Newcity Stage
"This show is going to make a lot of money for Front Bar," a friend joked after the opening of "Downstate," the latest from Bruce Norris, a playwright whose work really ought to include a high-proof chaser. Indeed, this play is a clenching experience. The audience essentially becomes a shaken bottle of carbonated liquid with Norris twisting the cap ever-so-slightly throughout the play's two-and-a-half hour runtime, offering temporary respite from our discomfort that only makes us feel worse for wanting to escape what these characters cannot. Casting himself as savior-sadist, Norris plays his audience like a tune, a modern Übermensch standing his ground between the increasingly alienated ends of the political spectrum who are, as he sees it, equally to blame for the state of the nation. The political forces at play in Norris' imagination are illustrated here as the pitiful pedophiliac inhabitants of a halfway home in rural Illinois and a middle-aged man who, with a strongly-worded