Need a ‘Purpose’ to Visit the Steppenwolf? We’ve Got One For You

A TSL Review

The cast of Purpose includes Jon Michael Hill, Ayanna Bria Bakari, Tamara Tunie, Cedric Young, and Glenn Davis. / Photo:  Michael Brosilow

The Jasper family was good at hiding their crumbling foundation and holding a facade of perfectionism until they weren’t.

Purpose, by Braden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Phylicia Rashad, is a play that tackles many common issues in families including religion, mental health, sexuality and more. Sexuality and religion are often topics that clash and this drama shows that it isn’t at all uncommon, especially for families of color.

Despite the ups and downs, the family had obvious love for one another. If they didn’t, many of their disputes wouldn’t have taken place. Everyone just wanted the best for the next person and for themselves.

The play is directed by the legendary Phylicia Rashad.

With the setting as the Jasper family’s common areas of the home, it really painted the picture for viewers of the family’s dynamic and showed the difficulty of having so many different personalities and sets of beliefs under one roof.  Starring Jon Michael Hill (“Naz” Jasper), chaos unfolds as he returns home where his parents, brother and sister-in-law are. Being that everyone in the family has their own beliefs and personalities, they sometimes clash, but that doesn’t make them love each other any less.

When Naz’s friend Aziza, played by Ayanna Bria Bakari, came to drop his phone off, she was welcomed in out of a snow storm by his mother, Claudine, played by Tamara Tunie, who was under the impression that Aziza was Naz’s girlfriend. This was just the beginning of a very long night filled with frustration, confusion and anger.

Naz just wants to do photography and be content with his projects and line of work. His family insists on him bringing someone home despite the fact that he’s asexual, something that causes strain between him and his father, Sonny, played by Cedric Young, who is a pastor and deeply religious. His father believes in things being “traditional” and according to the Bible and isn’t the most receptive to things that aren’t.

Sonny wasn’t happy with the actions and decisions of Naz as they didn’t exactly align with his. Despite this, Naz was the character who had a better understanding of who he was and who he wanted to grow into than his brother, Junior, played by Glenn Davis, as well as the other characters.

Running themes in the play include sense of self, acceptance and growth.

My favorite part of this play is that Black people are the ones telling and expressing Black stories. No one can tell a story better than the person whose story it is.

Overall, another 10 out of 10 rating for Steppenwolf from me. Purpose will be showing at the Steppenwolf Theatre until Sunday, May 12. If you’re interested in seeing this play get your tickets here.


By Cierra Lemott, Columbia College Chicago alumni

Instagram: @cece.kodak / @kodakscamera

X: @LemottCierra


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Written by Cierra Lemott

I'm a professional procrastinator and my hobbies include sleeping, eating, and Netflix binging.

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