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American Hero

AntV
Leading Actor
joined:12/23/12
American Hero
Posted: 5/13/14 at 05:40am
Anyone see it last night? Thoughts?
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel Profile Photo
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
American Hero
Posted: 5/13/14 at 08:08am
I was there last night and it was pretty terrible. The cast was game, but the script was a mess from start to finish. I felt like I was watching the pilot for a misguided NBC sitcom, but to my dismay it was 90 minutes instead of 22.

The tone of the piece was all over the place, giving me whiplash as it progressed. The first 20 minutes or so wanted to be a Parks & Rec/Office/Community parody of working at a Subway-type shop. Then it would try to have these "tough" and "real" moments of what it's like to find a job and get by during the recession. Then the plot stopped making sense...

There were a few one liners that got a chuckle out of me, but most of the time I was cringing at it. Of course, Ari Graynor provided a few laughs by sheer force of will, and Jerry O'Connell's Chris Traeger character had his moments.

Is this Second Stage Uptown supposed to be like The Lab at The Public? Are these supposed to be works in progress or is this stuff marketed as ready for public consumption? I hope the former. There is an interesting idea for a play here, but this felt like a rough draft of a rough draft.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
Kad Profile Photo
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
American Hero
Posted: 5/13/14 at 08:15am
I can't say I was a fan, despite a genuinely hilarious performance from Ari Graynor and some very funny one-liners and comedic business.

The play itself is implausible and tonally inconsistent, playing something like a second-string sitcom that suddenly decides it's going to be sincere.

The premise is that these three down-on-their-luck folks are hired to work a new not-Subway franchise, but the owner/manager abandons the store almost immediately. The manager/owner character is... well, pretty much a flat stereotype of a Middle-Eastern store owner, speaking in broken English, acting socially awkward, and yelling in his native tongue on the phone.

The owner vanishes after the second scene, and the rest of the time is spent with the employees struggling to keep the store afloat. What follows is hyperbole of corporate command chains and rule books, but not much in the way of fleshing out the characters beyond their archetypes. (Jerry O'Connell = failed corporate type, Ari Graynor = slutty single mom with a good heart, Erin Wilhelmi = overwhelmed, awkward, kindhearted teen).

I found something about the show sort of offensive, overall. Not just in its questionable depiction of the shop owner, but toward people who work minimum wage jobs like this. The playwright (Bess Wohl) seemed sort of removed from the whole thing, as if she never actually had to work a job like this before. It contained obviously researched details, but not emotional truth.

Also there's a scene in which Erin Wilhelmi is visited in her dreams by a talking sandwich.




Updated On: 5/13/14 at 08:15 AM
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel Profile Photo
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
American Hero
Posted: 5/13/14 at 08:27am
I completely agree with your comment about researched details, but no emotional truth. Having worked a few jobs like this during my high school summers these characters didn't feel or act authentically AT ALL.

(Some slight spoilers)
If your boss stopped showing up, and especially if there was any fear of not getting paid, you would never, ever, EVER keep showing up to work! If you ran out of sandwich meat you would close the shop. Come on! If these characters are so fake and stupid how are we ever supposed to believe the more serious moments?

The portrayal of the franchise owner was indeed offensive, and worse unfunny. If you're going to offend you better at least make me laugh.

It would have been more interesting if you had three recent college grads who couldn't find a job and ended up working at this sub shop. The manager goes AWOL and the three workers use their ingenuity to revamp the menu, cut costs and make a lot of money. Of course the franchise owner could return if it became too successful, or corporate could step in and steal the ideas leaving the kids broke once again.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
Kad Profile Photo
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
American Hero
Posted: 5/13/14 at 08:35am
I thought that's the direction it was going in following the, uh, sandwich dream. But that was at least 2/3s of the way through the show and is executed terribly - and nonsensically.

There is absolutely a play - perhaps a great play - to be written about customer service jobs like this, where people with their own stories are treated like service drones by their own peers over trivial goods. But this isn't it. It makes obvious jabs and obvious statements and spins its wheels the entire time.
stevenycguy
Broadway Star
joined:12/7/05
American Hero
Posted: 5/13/14 at 10:10am
I really enjoyed it and found it a fast-paced 97 minute sitcom. Great to see both Jerry O'Connell and Ari Graynor up close, and they certainly did not disappoint. The show reminded me of The Breakfast Club or The Flick (both of which I loved), where we learn each of the character's motivations for being there, and how they interact with each other. There are some very funny moments throughout the play. My favorites were when all 3 workers were alone in the sandwich shop and we see all the drama that goes on at the shop, with each other, and in their own private lives. (However, I agree with others here that the forced accent of the franchise owner could have been eliminated.) We learn why the 3 workers don't simply abandon the shop as they open up about their personal lives.

During the brief 10 minute talk-back we learned this show was previously presented at Williamstown, we heard some of the playwright's thoughts, and we learned that part of this show was based in fact. The playwright said that the franchise manual presented was based in fact (how to make sandwiches, etc). The actors were outside afterward to greet and speak with everyone, and wine and mini-sandwiches were provided. A very fun night out, and tickets are a steal at $25.

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