The fun thing about What the Constitution Means to Me is that it doesn't pretend it's not a play; there are several fourth-wall breaking moments throughout the show. It's like a great solo Fringe show, in which the playwright/actor tells the story of her life in a funny, emotional, and relatable way. When Heidi was 15, she toured the country competing in debates about the constitution, which paid her way through college. She starts off being her 15-year old self, on a stage that looks very much like a small town American Legion hall in the '80s. She gives the speech as near as she can remember, full of all the teenage excitement and angst. But as things get tough, she drops the artifice and continues as her current self. Heidi's family tree includes violence and mental illness, and she skillfully connects those issues to the constitution and its amendments in clear and precise ways. Our constitution was not set up to protect women or people of color, in fact it barely considered them, and amendments have only come so far in remedying that.
|Cassie Beck (photo by Joan Marcus)|
The play ends with a debate between Heidi/Cassie and a student traveling with the show, Jocelyn Shek at the performance I saw. Having seen the Amazon version, I was hoping they'd feature local students in this segment, but I understand that the logistics of touring, especially today, probably made this impossible. They debate whether to keep or toss the constitution, each taking different sides at different perforances. It's a fun, loose way to end the show, with a bit of audience involvement (and a pocket constitution for all, thanks to the ACLU!).
This funny, heart-breaking, beautiful, and necessary play continues at the Guthrie through October 24, to be followed by the first post-pandemic Guthrie production, an all new take on the 40+ year tradition of The Christmas Carol, and an exciting season of classics and new plays.