Get ready for the winner of the PEN USA Literary Award for Drama-winning Larissa FastHorse’s (What Would Crazy Horse Do?) satirical The Thanksgiving Play, now playing at Playwrights Horizons Theatre. Set in a classroom, a group has gathered to “devise” a 45-minute holiday play in honor of Native American Heritage Month for an elementary school audience. Here Logan (Jennifer Bareilles), a drama teacher who previously directed a production of The Iceman Cometh featuring 15-year-olds, led 300 parents to sign a petition calling for her firing; Jaxton (Greg Keller), her street performer boyfriend; Caden (Jeffrey Bean), a history teacher with a passion for theater, as well as being a frustrated playwright and Alicia (Margo Seibert, Rocky), an professional actress from LA, whose reason for being cast was because of her Native American heritage, gather. Alicia it turns out it not Native American and has fondness for “frozen turkey bowling”. Logan reason to be here, is to make a “culturally sensitive” play, while Jaxton wants to get to the core of the “Native American gestalt.” Caden just wants to set the historical record straight. Both the men make a play for the sexy, but not too bright Alicia, who tells Logan, she could be pretty if she would just wear make-up.
Holiday-themed skits and musical numbers, theatrical in-jokes and what exactly a dramaturg does are used to break up the fact Thanksgiving is based on a myth. So much damage and harm has been done to the generations of Indian people, thanks to this holiday. Harmful and untrue images starting with elementary school, have made the American Indian culture feel compromised, stereotyped and raped. Thanksgiving re-enactments trivialize history and teach a half-truths.
Though this overextended sketch has hilarious moments it fails to truly deliver its message.
The cast is all wonderful in their portrayals, with Margo Siebert rising to the top.
Moritz von Stuelpnagel (Bernhardt/Hamlet, Hand to God and Present Laughter), knows how to keep this show fast paced and comedic. Wilson Chin’s set design, Isabella Byrd’s lighting and Mikaal Sulaiman’s sound are all first rate, but it is
The Thanksgiving Play however, is overstuffed, without enough meat on the bone to really be taken seriously.
The Thanksgiving Play: Playwrights Horizon, 416 West 42nd St. until Nov. 25th.