Play considers what it was like to grow up in Naperville

Since the post-World War II suburban boom, a number of writers, filmmakers, musicians, and others have considered suburban life. Mat Smart, a playwright who grew up in Naperville, has a new Steppenwolf play about growing up in that community:

Though Smart acknowledges that part of the play’s genesis stems from a trip he took to Cameroon five years ago, the issues explored come from the same place where he grew up. Smart said the brothers, whom he described as “very much suburban Chicago dudes,” have differing views of growing up in Naperville.

Samuel K., the adopted brother, enjoyed living there, while Samuel J. complains about it and says the people living there are shallow.

“That was the same discourse among some of my friends when we were growing up,” Smart said. “Some people love it and some people hate it. But you’ll probably find that anywhere in the world.”

This sounds like it could be a different view than many works that simply suggest living in the suburbs is one of life’s worst fates.

The play also contains some dialogue comparing Naperville to another Chicago suburb:

The play also includes a humorous exchange between the brothers poking fun at the underlying attitudes some Naperville residents hold toward neighboring Aurora.

Samuel K. tells his brother, “Stop dumping on Naperville. We’re lucky to be from there. We could be from a lot worse places.”

“What, like Aurora?” Samuel J. says.

“No, like Rwanda.”

This exchange hints at how suburbanites view the character of other suburbs. For some Naperville residents, Aurora would be considered beneath their community with comparisons made between schools, crime rates, housing prices, downtowns, and more. Historically, Naperville thought Hinsdale was above it as it had a wealthier population. These sorts of comparisons between suburbs are not always explicitly stated but I suspect are commonly held among suburbanites.

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