Broadway in Chicago presents WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME.
This show is politics as unusual! USA’s favorite 230+ year old document gets dusted off and dissected down. As a 15 year old, Playwright Heidi Schreck participated in constitutional debates. Schreck used these teenage competitions to win scholarship money for college. Her play starts by setting the scene for this series of contests at the local legion hall. She explains debate rules which includes pulling a specific amendment out of a can and beginning an oratorical reflection. The winner is the one with the best examples of how the amendment impacts her life. Despite the show’s cerebral-based premise, Schreck’s insights are thoughtful, amusing and sometimes shocking.
Under the skillful direction of Oliver Butler, Cassie Beck (Heidi) tethers us to the provocative storytelling. Until Beck breaks character and introduces her real identity, her stories, her words, her feelings all feel authentic and organic. She IS Heidi Schreck sharing spontaneous family stories. She is transfixing with her – I mean Heidi’s- very personal reflections and reactions to laws that exclude the protection of women, immigrants, and people of color. She hits hard the irony of the original framers being affluent white men and the current majority of lawmakers still being affluent white men. Taped recordings of the all male Supreme Court Justices effectively emphasize the lunacy of constitution interpretation. (These judges have ruined the word ‘shall’ for me.)
The bulk of the show is a female tour de force named Beck. Mike Iveson serves as a debate judge and legion hall prop. Beck’s crazy antics fail to get a rise out of the hilariously, stone-faced Iveson. Later in the show, he also drops character, reveals his true identity and strips off his old-man look to reveal his own his-story. In each show, a youth joins Beck on stage for a debate on abolishing or keeping the constitution. At my performance, Emilyn Toffler represented the pros for dismissing the outdated document. Although the quick-talking Toffler had some interesting reasoning, I missed some of the points in the speedy delivery. This final segment seems not only intentional to have a new generation represented, it also balances out the earlier intensity with its playfulness.
WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME is both a powerful reflection and an inspirational gut punch. It’s a true reminder that the government has never and continues not to be representative of the country. It’s undebatable… Schreck’s show is a revelation to be experienced by We the People of the United States!
Running Time: One hour and forty-five minutes with not intermission
Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse at 175 E. Chestnut
Written by Heidi Schreck
Directed by Oliver Butler
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
Thru November 7th
Production Photos by Joan Marcus
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