Review Roundup: WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME in Los Angeles
Tony Award nominee Maria Dizzia is starring in the first two stops of the national tour of Heidi Schreck's Tony Award nominated play and Pulitzer Prize finalist What the Constitution Means to Me, directed by Oliver Butler. What the Constitution Means to Me played in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum January 12, and it will run through February 16, 2020. It will play in Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse March 4 through April 12, 2020.
Playwright Heidi Schreck's boundary-breaking play breathes new life into our Constitution and imagines how it will shape the next generation of American women. Fifteen-year-old Heidi earned her college tuition by winning Constitutional debate competitions across the United States. In this hilarious, hopeful, and achingly human new play, she resurrects her teenage self in order to trace the profound relationship between four generations of women and the founding document that dictated their rights and citizenship.
Let's see what the critics are saying about the Los Angeles run...
Don Grigware, BroadwayWorld: As soon as the ordinary theatregoer hears the title What the Constitution Means to Me, he may think "a boring two hours of history and politics! I get enough of that on a daily basis. I think I'll pass." Beware! Do not make such judgmental statements! Take a leap of faith and see this play. I found it scintillating; it educated and enlightened me. Now onstage through February 23 at the Taper, Heidi Schreck's in depth exploration is not a one person play about the contents of the Constitution. Yes, of course it presents facts, but the overwhelmingly violent issues at hand are extremely personal and relatable. In spite of its dark corners, it will surprisingly shower you with laughs and hopefully make you want to stand up and fight for human rights.
Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: Dizzia's relationship to Schreck's autobiographical material obviously isn't the same. The personal feeling that colored Schreck's performance - the way emotion would flush across her face as she recounted a long heritage of women brutalized by husbands and fathers - can't be duplicated. The pauses that hauntingly register the intergenerational trauma aren't as resonant. But Schreck's story is larger than Schreck. That was the whole point of sharing it. And Dizzia brings to life the maddening, mournful history of how women's bodies have been abused by our laws and the male-dominated courts imperiously interpreting them.
Jill Weinlein, Onstage Blog: Nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play and a finalist spot for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this show will appeal to history buffs, liberals and feminists, but might make some in the audience uncomfortable as the playwright tackles abortion, equal citizen protection and immigration.
Deborah Klugman, Stage Raw: About two thirds into the piece, Maria introduces Rosdely Ciprian, a contemporary teenage debater doing the circuit much as Heidi did 30 years earlier. Maria and Rosdely then launch into a master debate on whether the Constitution as we know it should be preserved or shelved, with the audience, encouraged to cheer or boo, as the final judge. Now I imagine there are people for whom the mere thought of such descant is enough to make their eyelids droop. They should not be dissuaded by preconceived notions. As playwright, Schreck has filtered her personal journey of discovery into a vital work that challenges us to consider our heritage as Americans - to preserve the good and discard the bad. And she offers it up to us with an abundant supply of humor and humanity that unequivocally drives her message home.
Maureen Lee Lenker, EW: Dizzia is spectacular in the role, taking up Schreck's story and her name with the utmost respect and her own deeply personal sense of connection. There is never a disconnect, no sense that she is telling anyone's story but her own - perhaps because in Schreck's hyper-personal tale, there are such deep truths, a specificity that breeds familiar and chilling reminders of what it is to be an American woman. Dizzia makes you believe she is Heidi, while also stepping outside of the role in moments to honor the responsibility of the story she has been asked to tell.