‘The America Play’ takes a surreal look at the past

Steven Wright is Honest Abe in "The America Play." Credit: Rachel Dukeman/Plays & Players
Steven Wright is Honest Abe in “The America Play.”
Credit: Rachel Dukeman/Plays & Players

Plays & Players is going surreal with “The America Play.” The show tells the tale of an African-American man who looks an awful lot like Abe Lincoln — and is willing to get shot, for a small fee. That’s until he slips down into the Great Hole of History.

Two short related plays, both titled “Other American Cousins,” open the performance.

Director Suzana Berger, a Penn grad and artistic director of Dragon’s Eye Theatre, tells us about the mix of comedy and tragedy audiences can expect.

“The America Play” is described as “an experimental examination of the missing side of American history.” What history are we talking about?
Stories of people and experiences that have often been ignored in the history books: African-Americans, women, people who feel they have to choose between family and pursuing a dream, single parents raising families on their own, children growing up without a father — stories that are deeply woven into the fabric of this country.

So, a black Abe Lincoln charges a fee to get shot — is that a show he puts on? Or can anyone shoot him?
The Lesser Known, as he calls himself, invites the public “to pay a penny, choose from a selection of provided pistols and shoot Mr. Lincoln.” In the play, we meet several people who’ve chosen to spend part of their Sunday afternoon on this unusual activity. The audience is left to consider what motivates each of them, what they get out of re-enacting the assassination.

Does the whole thing take place in the past?
Yes, but there are a lot of anachronisms. I interpret that as a wink to the audience that this family’s struggles could really be happening at any time, and that history isn’t as neatly set and in the past as we think it is.

The storyline is pretty out there. Would you call it a drama? A comedy?
This play is constantly putting tragedy and comedy on top of each other, mixing them with invented history and jazz musicality. It’s a play about America, in all its complexity, so like America, it can’t be pinned down to just one category.

What were some challenges that came up when you were directing?
[Playwright] Suzan-Lori Parks leaves plenty of room for interpretation in her script — a lot of hints in the dialogue about what the actions might be. We experimented with many different possibilities in rehearsal. With a team of such creative actors and designers, the challenge was often choosing between several exciting options for the same moment that all served the story.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Girl, 10, dies after being pulled from water…

A 10-year-old girl died after being pulled from the waters off Coney Island Beach in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, police said.

News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

Arts

PHOTO: Wildlife photographer Marc Mol captures amazing aerial…

This aerial image was taken by photographer Marc Mol who spotted the animals during an air safari in Zambia.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.