Written by Heidi Schreck, who also played the role of herself on Broadway, What the Constitution Means to Me is part civics lesson and part very personal story, as it very seriously (and humorously) explores the issues of domestic violence, abortion rights, and generational trauma. It is simultaneously depressing and hopeful about the state of our nation. Which is pretty on track for the world right now. The fun thing about it 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.
|Megan K. Pence as Heidi (photo courtesy of Lakeshore)
|Anna Desari, Megan K. Pence, and Rick Thompson
(photo courtesy of Lakeshore)
This is such a brilliantly written play, in the way that it discusses the very foundation upon which our nation is built, but not in a dry textbook kind of way (although there are lots of facts and dates), but in the most personal way that makes me see, perhaps for the first time, just how much the constitution shapes our daily lives, and the unfair way it treats many American citizens. It's an ambitious and risky choice for this theater in the suburbs (perhaps the reason for the short run), to begin an ambitious season. If the success of this show is any indication, it's going to be a great season for Lakeshore Players Theater.
What the Constitution Means to Me performs tonight and tomorrow afternoon, with additional performances in September and January. You don't want to miss this one, especially if you live in the Northeast suburbs. And watch for The Three Musketeers, adapted by Ken Ludwig (whose work was recently seen in Murder on the Orient Express at the Guthrie and Sherwood at Theatre in the Round) opening in September.