BWW Review: Seattle Public Theater's THE THANKSGIVING PLAY Brings the 'Woke' Laughs
We all know that person, be it friend or co-worker or maybe you ARE that person, who's just a little too PC and a bit too "woke". They're the first one's to jump on your when you're being culturally insensitive as they see it as their duty to make the world as "woke" as them. Well now with Larissa Fasthorse's "The Thanksgiving Play" currently being offered from Seattle Public Theater, we can finally laugh in that person's face. Or if you are that person, maybe you can find some moments to laugh at yourself.
In her play, which is on the list of the Top 10 Most Produced Plays this season around the country, Fasthorse takes us inside the rehearsal of a new Thanksgiving play being crafted by Logan (Jonelle Jordan) for the Elementary school where she works. Logan is a hyper-vigilant vegan and one of those "woke" people who's determined, along with her boyfriend and PC ally Jaxton (Martyn G. Krouse), to create a play celebrating the real story of the plight of the indigenous people that will educate the masses, and hopefully not focus on the slaughter of the turkey too much, while still falling into the guidelines from the school board. She enlists the help of eager historian Caden (Andrew Shanks) to help flesh out the facts and hires L.A. actress Alicia (Zenaida Rose Smith), whom she thinks is a true Native American. If these four can get out of their own way enough, then maybe they'll come up with something meaningful and great.
The show is, often self-referentially, an indictment on enlightened white people who think they can relay histories and truths that have nothing to do with them. But before you think it's a severe downer from which you want to stay away, rest assured that Fasthorse does it in such a loving and hilarious way that you won't mind the message. Fasthorse, obviously doesn't hate this kind of person, she just questions their methods and that's why the show works. My only qualm with it is that it's a 90-minute joke with little to no arc or growth or resolution. But hey, it's still fun so let's just go with it.
Director Kelly Kitchens paces the show beautifully and keeps the chaos reigned in so the jokes land. Even the penultimate scene, which is filled with chaos, is staged so well that the resulting "play" they create almost becomes a fifth character in the room. And speaking of the room, scenic designer Christopher Mumaw has once again created a fantastic environment in which the actors get to play.
And play they do as each of this fantastic ensemble commits completely to the world and their characters making each one a rich, complex person. Jordan's desperate educator is perfectly offset with Krouse's laid back hipster and Smith's simplistic actress. And Shanks' overly factual yet yearning to be an artist nerd fits in to the quartet beautifully. Each of them is truly listening to and supporting the others and that's what keeps the laughs rolling along.
The overall message may get a bit static but the hilarity more than makes up for that, making this a delightful night out. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Seattle Public Theater's production of "The Thanksgiving Play" a "woke and laughing" YAY. Oh, and if you are that "woke" person but don't have a sense of humor about being that person then maybe you stay away. The rest of you, come have a good laugh at that person.
"The Thanksgiving Play" performs at Seattle Public Theater through November 16th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.seattlepublictheater.org.