Just in time for the Independence Day weekend, Vanishing Elephant Players gives us their production of The Complete History of America (Abridged) by Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor, where a trio of actors gives you all the information you need to know about America as fast as humanly possible.
Before we jump into this review, I must give props to the three actors involved in this show: Matt Kehoe, Bailey Richardson, and Erica Tatum. Tatum, originally the stage manager, was brought into the show as a cast member a mere two days before opening to replace an actor who was involved in an unexpected medical emergency. While not the ideal situation, Tatum and the rest of the cast rallied and proved that “the show must go on”.
The play is told through a series of vignettes, in most cases centering around a major war and commenting on other issues of the time through that lens. Costumes and props throughout (designed by Erica Tatum and director Dave Ryan) were simple and effective in communicating the fast shift between different characters that all three actors went through at a moment’s notice. While possibly more of an issue with the script, some of the vignettes covering larger parts of history were not as successful, particularly a 1940s style radio show and a film noir inspired trek through several centuries. The pace slowed quite a bit during these moments, with quite a few of the jokes being glossed over or lost entirely as a result. Newcomer Richardson held her own with the cast, running around the stage and delivering some of the show’s longer monologues with lots of knowing glances to the audience and excellent timing. Kehoe played a handful of our nation’s more recognizable personalities, employing some rather spot on impressions (think presidents of the 70s and 80s), and Tatum played the straight man to her other cast members well, but also received several chances to show off her comedy chops as well.
The Complete History of America (Abridged) is the perfect way to spend this Fourth of July weekend, looking back at our nation’s history with some much needed humor and irreverence. The show continues the rest of this weekend at the Historic Masonic Temple of Bay City tonight (Saturday, July 6th) at 7pm and tomorrow afternoon (Sunday, July 7th) at 3pm. Tickets can be purchased for $8 in advance online or for $10 at the door.