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BWW Review: AMERICAN DREAMS at Marin Theatre Company

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MERICAN DREAMS at Marin Theatre Company

BWW Review: AMERICAN DREAMS at Marin Theatre Company

American Dreams

Written by Leila Buck

Directed by Tamilla Woodard

Marin Theatre Company in Partnership with Working Theatre (NYC)

10 November 2020

Marin Theatre Company partners with Working Theatre (NYC) and five other theatre companies in presenting the West Coast Digital Debut of Leila Buck's interactive theatrical experience, American Dreams. In the year of COVID-19, digital productions are the New Medium and companies are experimenting with available styles, either live recorded productions or in this case, a Zoom presentation similar to our work at home business meetings.

American Dreams is presented as a participatory performance game show where we the audience vote to grant citizenship to one of three deserving contestants. We're introduced to Adil, Alejandro and Usman, each with compelling stories and dreams of achieving their own unique interpretation of the American Dream. Adil (Ali Andre Ali) is a farm to table chef in Bethlehem, Usman (Imran Sheikh) graduated from Rutgers and is an illustrator from Pakistan and Alejandro (Andrew Aaron Valdez) is a medic/poet from Mexico. All three give meaty, sympathetic performances that far transcend any unfortunate stereotypes.

BWW Review: AMERICAN DREAMS at Marin Theatre Company
Jens Rasmussen and Leila Buck, who is also the playwright, portray the American Dreams game show hosts.

There are multiple rounds to the game show, hosted by Chris (Jens Rasmussen) and Sherry (playwright Leila Buck) played as real stereotypical game show hosts - smarmy and phony. India Nicole Burton plays the shows producer and rouses up the Zoom audience to applaud on cue and answer voting polls throughout the show. My performance had numerous mishaps on the productions side - video out of sync with the audio and issues with corralling so many Zoom interfaces into a cohesive unit. I found the Zoom interface distracting although I applaud the intention of the participatory nature.

The heft of this production was a section titled the American Dream Round, allowing each contestant to present their case to the audience. All three nail their appeals, delivering thoughtful and genuine arguments. They speak of public service, philanthropy and opportunity - values that should resonate deeply with Americans. If the pointy of this production is to portray immigrants in a new, more sympathetic light, goal achieved.

BWW Review: AMERICAN DREAMS at Marin Theatre Company
A contestant (Ali Andre Ali, center) faces tests to see how much he understands about America.

Just when you're feeling all fuzzy and warm, there's the Hot Seat Round, a nasty, dark inquisition by the hosts that comes directly from the past four-year Trump regime. Each contestant is grilled mercilessly over political, social and religious beliefs, their answers twisted and manipulated into grotesque bigotry and animosity. This section seems to come out of nowhere and the audience is made to react to these harangues with a Roman Coliseum thumbs up or down.

I have to assume all this is intentional and writer Buck wants us to feel both sympathy and antipathy towards those who desire to immigrate to the US. Should we look deeper into each persons American Dream or assume they fit ugly xenophobic stereotypes? Food for thought.

American Dreams runs through November 15th. Contact Marin Theatre Company

marintheatre.org | (415) 388-5208 | boxoffice@marintheatre.org

Photos by Cherie B. Tay



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From This Author Steve Murray