“AmerWrecka” opened in Charlotteon Nov 22 in Press by admin
(Source: The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.))By Lawrence Toppman, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)
Feb. 14–Writer-director J.D. Lewis’ play “AmerWrecka” opened in Charlotte Thursday, 23 days after its main villain stopped running the U.S. government.
Lewis created it in 2005, soon after George Bush began his second term, to show the world Americans didn’t all think like the president. If it played then as a savage take on current events, it now seems like a cautionary tale of what could happen if voters got careless again. (Think Bush did a good job? Read no further; this play will elevate your blood pressure.)
Lewis, head of The Actor’s Lab in Charlotte and Los Angeles, was just 11 when members of the Ohio National Guard killed four students and wounded nine others at Kent State University in 1970. That attack on Vietnam War protestors so horrified him that he uses it to hurl us into a whirlwind of entertainment, the kind that used to be called “agitprop” — as in “agitation propaganda” — back when I took theater classes in college.
The four (Steven Buchanan, Allison Flanagan, Jamie Robinson and Kellin Watson) die before our eyes, transformed from slogan-spouting, slightly foolish hippies to angels who haven’t yet earned their wings. They’re ordered by divine command to reappear in the New York City of 2007 and pick four people capable of starting a revolution.
They choose lesbian chef Jazz (Cher Ferreyra), grieving firefighter Finn (Kevin Patrick Murphy), weary exotic dancer Tess (Keleigh Thomas) and Republican congressional candidate Gail (Pam Galle) to hear the good and bad news: They may change the world, but they won’t live to see what they accomplish.
This octet and five supporting players cook up a savory, intensely flavored stew of blunt political diatribe, broad satire, simulated sex, heartfelt moments of unity, blasts of profanity, and a recreation of the loving but naÃ¯ve mood of the 1960s, often punctuated by songs from the Woodstock era. (How hard it is for those of us who were teens in 1969 to realize that this festival happened 40 summers ago.)
Lewis teaches actors in his classes to live in each moment, to have “a real thought” all the time. So it’s no surprise that the cast, many of them his students, can change moods so fluidly and make hairpin emotional turns under his brisk direction. (The intermission-less, 100-minute show seems a bit shorter than that.)
The performers all sing with conviction and warmth; Watson, who’s a professional singer-songwriter, especially earns the adjective “angelic.”
Sometimes Lewis goes overboard: I didn’t need the boorish, boozy ramblings of right-winger Buster to get the point (expertly played though he was by Kevin Alderman).
Yet the welcome overall impression is one of patriotism: not a cry of “America right or wrong,” but in the words of former Republican Sen. Carl Schurz: “America — when she is right, to be kept right. When she is wrong, to be put right.”