Theater and Concert Reviews.
Explore'The Thanksgiving Play'
by ROBERT MASSIMI 2 years ago in REVIEWA Real TurkeyThe Thanksgiving Play at Playwrights Horizon starts out well enough. The four actors in the play sing a Thanksgiving song and are pretty campy about it. In fact, the four actors are all pretty good in this show. After the opening scene before the curtain lifts on what is a good classroom set, (Wilson Chin) the audience is ready for a great show. This, however, never came to fruition.
Thanksgiving looks to poke fun at the liberal PC, or politically correct movement that has befallen the entire scholastic center in America. When the play begins, it is actually hilarious in hearing Logan (Jennifer Bareilles) talk about being a vegan and how Thanksgiving celebrates slaughter. Jaxton (Greg Keller) talks about being a "vegan ally" and the way the couple decouples is quite raucous. Director Moritz Von Stuelpnagel tries to keep up this pace but unfortunately Larissa FastHorse,(yes, that's really the writer's name) does not give Von Stuelpnagel enough material to work with.
In trying to make a school play at Jefferson High School, Logan is on her last legs as this school's artistic director. It seems that there are 300 petitions to have her removed from her post after giving the elementary school a play The Ice Man Cometh, which was shut down. She is also considered a PC kook and the parents want her out. Her boyfriend, Jaxton, who she will not freely admit is almost as PC as Logan wants to do the PC thing with her. He meditates, hates his white privilege, and is proud that he is a local street actor celebrity.
The crux of the play is putting on a play that will not offend anyone. Logan is worried about her grant money. She brings in an expert in Native American History, as well as what would be appropriate as far as history goes in putting on a perfect, acceptable, not offensive play that shows just how bad the Pilgrims were to harm the Native Americans. To get this done properly she brings in Caden (Jeffrey Bean), to bring fact as to what is acceptable and what will work best. Both Caden and Jaxton are distracted, however, when the very beautiful Hollywood actress, Alicia (Margo Seibert) is brought in under consent of the actor's union to play a Native American. It seems that she is not one and it brings new problems to Logan, who thinks that it will for sure bring an end to any grant money if she plays an Indian.
The big glitch in The Thanksgiving Play is that the individual skits that they do are just not by and large funny. The whole premise here is that Logan thinks it would be best to have the four people write a script for the play rather then work from a set script. The play goes on to give us several different versions of how the play could work. At the same time, FastHorse gives us insight to each character and their different personalities. We see Alicia as a self admitted simpleton who is content with her life. Logan, who spent six weeks in Hollywood, is a frustrated actor as well as frustrated with life. Jaxton, while he supports his girlfriend, is not committed to her lifestyle. Caden is a very bright man but is at his wit's end because he cannot get anything published. He hates that grade school children act his works out on stage and not adults.
The play could have given us a more in-depth, funny storyline behind each actor. As we listen to their stories, we have some laughs, but this is where the show could have gotten really good. FastHorse could have made this part really great. Instead we had only guffaws, not belly laughs. There was so much material with each character that this should have been a defining part of the play, but it wasn't.
Isabella Byrd's lighting was very good. Byrd gave us exciting moments when she focused on each actor at one time and each scenario that the play they were working on may take us, too.
Tilley Grimes also gives us nice costumes. From the Turkey to Alicia's seductive costume, Grimes's costumes were effective in this play.
While some of the skits are funny, others are awful and make the play lag. After an hour of this ninety minute play, the play spirals out of directorial control. The play begins to lose all control of where it should have gone. Thanksgiving could be a good comedy if some of the skits get reworked. In the meantime, The Thanksgiving Play is a real Turkey.
Playwrights Horizon, Theater Row, Tilley, Turkey, Thanksgiving.