Review of a Vagabond Theatre play- The Complete History of America (Abridged)
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
I saw this play over the weekend with my boyfriend as a proper date night in Fells Point. When he told me about this play we were seeing, he said that a few people walked out of the theatre before intermission, mainly because they were offended by the things the actors were saying throughout the first act.
Man, were they wrong.
From the very beginning of the play, I thought I might be offended because the writers of the play might side with one political party and tell a horrible tale of the story of the United States. But the funny part is, they told it right. And they told it using satire and humor through the whole play.
The story is told with three actors, Sean Kelly, Fred Fletcher-Jackson, and William Meister, where they all come up with the most ridiculous tales of how we came to be Americans. In the first act, they did a sketch where at some point during Chris Columbus’s expedition to India and stumbling on “The New World”, an Italian map maker decides to name the new world after himself, America, while getting nagged by his wife and yelling at his bosses over the phone.
They also go into the story of the Native Americans, where they do an “antelope dance”, that involves Sean Kelly making a balloon animal of a puppy. And when they get to the Revolutionary War, they start running back and forth talking about the Boston Tea Party and eventually the “shot heard round the world”, which they did with a canister with a red X on it, resembling the bullet. Civil War, they tried to do a slide show, only the slide projector was broken, so the actors improv’d.
In the second act after intermission, they touched on the first and second World Wars in a reenactment and a radio play before getting the audience involved. By this time, I was already recovered from laughing so hard in the first act. I’ve never laughed so hard at a play in my life since my dad played Horace Vandegelder in Hello Dolly at Spotlighter’s, where the guy playing Barnaby cracked me up. They answered questions from the audience quite erroneously, and sort of avoiding some true answers about our history, before going into the final performance, which the audience had to vote on.
Kelly wanted to do a Broadway musical ending to the show. Will Meister wanted a “film noir” ending. So the actors put it to a vote.
“Broadway musical wins the popular vote!”
But then Meister pulled out a red envelope and shouted, “But the film noir ending wins the Electoral College!”
I booed at that moment and yelled, “Screw the Electoral College!”
I had to hand it to these guys, this was the best comedy I had seen in a long time. From the first discovery of America, to the last 50 years and the last election (“The first African American president was followed by the first orange president.”), I fell immediately in love with this play. It will never cease to surprise you.
Also, Sean Kelly is an incredible actor. The first play I saw him perform in was Vagabond’s performance of Arthur Miller’s tragedy All My Sons, which was a wonderful performance. Now I can see him doing more than just drama, but in comedy as well.
I hope it wins some big admiration from the Baltimore Playwrights’ Festival. If you are a Democrat (like me) or a Republican, even one of those Independents or Green Party supporters, you will love this play from start to finish.
This weekend is the last show of this play, so hurry to go see it before it’s gone.
Love, the Nerd Queen