‘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

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.