Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME at The Kennedy Center?
After a hit run on Broadway, Heidi Schreck's What the Constitution Means to Me has opened at Washington DC's Kennedy Center. Read what the critics had to say!
Written and performed by Pulitzer Prize finalist and three-time Obie Award winner Heidi Schreck (Grand Concourse, "I Love Dick") and directed by Obie Award winner Oliver Butler (The Amateurs, The Light Years), What the Constitution Means to Me achieved full recoupment of its $2.5 million capitalization with the week ending July 14th, and has delivered a full return of capital to its investors in its weeks remaining in the Broadway engagement.
Following the Broadway run, the production is currently playing a special engagement at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater in Washington, DC from September 11-22, featuring the Broadway cast. A national tour of the play, featuring a new cast, will launch at Center Theater Group's Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in January 2020, with plans to play 40 weeks in 22 cities across the country.
Read the reviews below!
Jennifer Perry, BroadwayWorld: While I appreciated Ms. Schreck's passion for the subject matter, natural stage presence, and engaging demeanor, I felt that at times I was witnessing either an academic lecture or a personal rant - sometimes switching from one to the other in the span of seconds - on Rachel Hauck's theme-appropriate set. At the end of the play, I understood Ms. Schreck's overall message and why she took the structural approach she did, but - at least for me - it was a bit of a slog to get to that point. While a dramaturg (Sarah Lunnie) is listed in the program, the script could use additional cutting. This is no more apparent than when Mike Iveson (though a good actor in his own right) takes center stage and shares his story. He explains why Heidi chose to include this moment, but I didn't think the rationale (not to be spoiled here) was particularly satisfactory. Thematic messages and opinions are also repeated to the point where one might feel like they're being beaten over the head.
Peter Marks, The Washington Post: I've now sat through "What the Constitution Means to Me" four times, the first occasion at off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop, twice at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre and now at the Kennedy Center. In each venue, the theater capacity has gotten bigger - and so has Schreck's performance. Her recitation comes across as intimate and rife with feeling: Repeatedly over the hour and 45 minutes she stands before us, Schreck seems overcome and has to pause. If the trembling is acting, as she describes the beatings her grandmother Betty endured at the hands of her violent second husband, then she's had one over me. Not that I'd begrudge it if it were artifice. Because the underlying anguish undoubtedly is real.
John Stotlenberg, DC Metro Theatre Arts: What the Constitution Means to Me is the most necessary work of American theater of this century so far, and it is essential viewing for anyone who cares about the tenuous future of equality.
John Bavoso, DC Theatre Scene: It's probably trite at this point to say that What the Constitution Means to Me should be required viewing for all U.S. history and government classes, but, even in a city that lives and breathes American politics, I have never been so thoroughly and gorgeously reminded that the debates we have aren't just about a piece of parchment in the National Archives or hypothetical situations divorced from reality, but actual human lives. The play goes on tour-sadly for the rest of the country, without Schreck-in January, and it doesn't feel hyperbolic to say that if every American could see this show, our current political situation might feel a lot less bleak.