Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2021-11-24 16:21:43 –
Native American playwright Larissa Fasthorse does not waste time drilling into the notion of a typical Caucasian view of the first Thanksgiving. Her satire, Thanksgiving play, Will the audience decide to make them think, not just laugh and boy, and will that happen?
At this Wisconsin premiere, the Milwaukee Chamber Theater will take a bold leap from the digital streaming version of the show (announced last season) to an on-stage version. Only two of the four actors from the previous work remain. However, the new crew is performing brilliantly under the direction of prominent actor / director Laura Gordon.
Gordon digs into every nuance of the situation where white educational artists get together to create an elementary school play about the first Thanksgiving. Deciding to respect Native American history as well, the director of the play, Logan (Cassandra Vissel), hired what she thought was a real Native American actor. But her attempt to fill the cultural gap fails cheerfully. Los Angeles-based sexy actor Alicia (Hanna Shay) states that her stock photos are intended to reflect many ethnic groups she can play, including Native Americans.
This revelation is about to make Logan hysterical because he is worried about whether he will meet the various grant requirements he received to play.
When the group decides to find a politically correct way out of this turmoil, the playwright inserts a short chapter from a beginner-level instructional guide. First, the actor sings and dances to the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with lyrics about headdresses, moccasins, blankets, bows and arrows, and Halloween pumpkins. Hmmm. The weirdest of these ridiculous vignettes include a turkey-singing quartet that is inevitably targeted by (behind-the-scenes) hunters.By the way, which elementary school students do not want to see that?
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Meanwhile, returning to the classroom, Logan tries to save the situation with the help of her “enlightened” boyfriend, who believes she is a trained professional actor. In fact, Jackson (Neil Brookshire) is a yoga / meditation enthusiast and street performer who entertains crowds at local farmers markets. They seek help from senior teacher and playwright Cayden (Tory Hanson), who has done extensive research on the Harvest Festival tradition thousands of years ago. His racist dialogue is one of the highlights of the drama comics. Everyone in the cast is expected to contribute to this project, but laid-back Alicia stares at the ceiling and prefers to think nothing.
Talented casts focus on these stereotyped characters. As Logan, Cassandra Bissell is probably the most credible. Logan shows a keen desire to “do the right thing” even if it means violating vegan philosophy (yes, their play includes those who actually eat turkey). Her appeal to Jackson (Neil Brookshire) seems to be based on her desire to save the injured bird rather than engaging in a strong partnership between the two adults.
Brookshire, as Jackson, is so ashamed of the privilege of his white man that at some point he begs Logan for a verbal whip. Soft oral educator Tory Hanson also wants to draw attention, but is pleased with the occasional gaze and comments that Alicia gives way. As Alicia, Hannah Shay is reminiscent of the old Hollywood Starlet.
Sit down and laugh
In most cases, the characters are so crazy that the audience can easily sit and laugh. However, not everything is perfect. The play has its drawbacks. For one thing, it tends to be “talkative.” And much of the dialogue, though interesting, is just a liberal newspeak (which sounds awkward to some). The 90-minute play (no breaks) feels like the steam has run out along the way, despite the cast’s energetic efforts to keep it afloat. It also turns to the tangent that causes play to lose focus.
The factor of production is inside Thanksgiving play A strong place. The authentic exterior classroom set (designed by Jason Fassl, who is also responsible for lighting) includes a dreaded (if familiar) green wall and a large linoleum tile floor. Jim Guy, the property guru, trims the set to the smallest detail. He also creates some cheerful and funny props (no spoilers here). Joseph Selqua incorporates persistent lesson ideas into his music, and costume designer Misty Bradford creates everything from turkey costumes to crumpled, outdated teacher outfits (for Tory Hanson characters). ..
Brent Hazelton, Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, said in his opening speech that one of the company’s goals is to reach out to poorly serviced people. This play skewers the traditional notion of amicable Thanksgiving meals between pilgrims and Native Americans, so it certainly fits the company’s vision. As historical researcher Cayden points out, the harsh reality is much darker and lasting than the mainstream America is trying to admit.
Thanksgiving play Broadway Theater Center, 158N until December 19th. Continue on Broadway. Entry requires proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid-19 test. I need a mask. For tickets, please visit milwaukeechambertheatre.org or call 414-291-7800.