Abraham Lincoln’s status as “the Great Emancipator” is a foundational myth of the American nation: a racially loaded narrative explored and satirized by Suzan-Lori Parks in THE AMERICA PLAY, now at Plays & Players. “Some inconsistencies are good for business,” says the Lesser Known (Steven Wright), a black Lincoln impersonator who makes his living charging people a penny to simulate the president’s assassination With the Lesser Known’s quest to dig “an exact replica of the great hole of history” left incomplete, his wife (Tanya O’Neill) and son (Kirschen Wolford) spend the second act excavating this metaphorical cavity. “This hole is my inheritance of sorts,” laments the Lesser Known’s offspring.
Parks’s script is rich in symbolism and metaphor, sending up the idea of the great man of history and questioning our historical memory. Wright portrays a presidential reenactor with suitable nobility and derision, and each cast member turns in a moving performance. But the second act drags as director Suzana Berger has the family unit mine every drop of poignancy from their symbol-laden interactions. This was unnecessary: there is much profundity close to the surface of THE AMERICA PLAY. April 4 to 28, 2013. playsandplayers.org.
[THE AMERICA PLAY is presented with one of two short introductory pieces each night. OTHER AMERICAN COUSINS, written by local playwright Quinn D. Eli and performed by Langston Darby and Lindsay Daniels (who also brighten the main production), proved an entertaining and perfectly complementary racially conscious satire.]