Grab A Drink With BTE’s Production Of “Naperville”

Buffalo Theater Ensemble’s performance of “Naperville” brings a story of community to COD.


Provided by Rex Howard Photography Pictured: Actors Lisa Dawn (far left), Robert Jordan Bailey (center left), Kelli Walker (center), Whitney Dottery (center right), and Ravi Kalani (far right)

Bee Bishop, Managing Editor

Living in the suburbs can feel a bit mundane. The relentless monotony of going to work, going to school, driving past neighborhoods after neighborhoods and getting your everyday cup of coffee. But there is something charming about suburban communities. “Naperville” written by Mat Smart simulates that charm. 

“Naperville” is the latest production of Buffalo Theater Ensemble, the professional ensemble resident to the MAC. Their opening night was this past weekend and is being performed in the Playhouse Theater in the MAC.

The plot follows a group as they sit inside a coffee shop discussing the events in their life that lead them to the present moment. Lisa Dawn, an actor in the show, said that she believes the show centers around the idea of starting over.

“It’s a dramedy about second chances,” Dawn said. “About good people who are trying to do the right thing, but not always getting it exactly right. And still finding a way to move forward.”

 A play about a Chicago suburb seems a little odd, but Kurt Naebig, the play’s director, believes the strength of the play comes from that charm of suburban communities. 

“The playwright calls it a love letter to the suburbs,” Naebig said. “Having grown up and lived in Chicago for some time, I know that sometimes people from the city look down on the burbs. But Smart is trying to let people know that we’re all the same, we all have the same issues. It clues you into the idea of community and taking care of each other.”

Actor Ravi Kalani was quick to agree.

“I think it’s not fair to hold the idea that the suburbs are a boring place,” Kalani said. “There’s so much more nuance. All of those people have their own stories and those stories matter.”

Provided by Rex Howard Photography Pictured: Actors Ravi Kalani (far left), Kelli Walker (center left), Whitney Dottery (center right), and Lisa Dawn (far right)

The play has heartwarming characters, a relatable plot, and a set design that is stellar in the details and atmosphere it creates. Naebig commented that the set design was one of the strengths of the show. 

“I think it will be hard for people to come in, see the set and not go ‘wow,’” he said. 

“Naperville” had been Jeff Recommended by the Jeff Awards, an organization dedicated to recognizing and honoring theater excellence in the Chicago area. 

Dawn believes a story like “Naperville” is one that will connect with audience members, especially those who are at a crossroads in their life. 

“Towns change and grow, so staying in the same place doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve stayed in the same place,” she said. “It’s a choice of changing your own scenery, or embracing watching it change around you.”

BTE attempted to perform at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but pushed the performance date back until COVID-19 cases were low. Kalani believes that the themes of the play are more relatable now than ever before.

“I think right now people want to connect to things,” he said. “And this play is all about how people find a way to connect.”

Dawn agreed, mentioning how grateful she was to finally bring this play to the COD community. 

“Finally bringing this story about community to our community is an honor,” she said.

“Naperville” will run until May 29, at the Playhouse theater in the MAC. Tickets are $42 for adults and $40 for seniors. For more information about the play, check out the MAC website. For more information about BTE, check out their page on the MAC website. 

BTE  requires audience members to wear masks at all times during the performance and present proof of vaccination before entering the theater. For more information about the COVID-19 protocols, read the COVID-19 information page on the MAC website.