History of America (Abridged) at MSC a hit!
(Upper photo l to r) Mrs. Vespucci (Mick Mize) chastises husband Amerigo (Darren Bridgett) while ship's captain (Cassidy Brown) looks on in the opening scene of The History of America (Abridged) at Marin Shakespeare Company.
(Lower photo l to r) The intrepid trio of Cassidy Brown, Darren Bridgett and Mick Mize in a fox hole of WW I with their water guns at ready (audience beware) Photos by Eric Chazankin.
HISTORY OF AMERICA (Abridged) at Marin Shakespeare Company a hit!
THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA (Abridged). By Adam Long, Reed Martin & Austin Tichenor. Directed by Robert Currier. Marin Shakespeare Company, Forest Meadows Amphitheatre 1475 Grand Avenue, Dominican University of California, San Rafael, Calif. 94901. 415-499-4488 or http://www.marinshakespeare.org. August 30 to September 25, 2011.
A new comedy trio with intellect is born that would make the Marx Brothers proud and envious. Marin Shakespeare Company is back on track with a hilarious remounting of The Complete History of America (Abridged) for the second offering in their 21st season. You have to see it to believe it. Three topnotch actors cavort on simple rag-tag stage creating a myriad of characters/events that were part of the history of America with a pastiche of skits, embellished with slapstick humor, outrageous costumes and satirical innuendo under the tongue-in-cheek direction of Robert Currier who probably gave free reign to his cast. They kept a full house audience, including a large contingent of Girls Scouts, entertained, often in stitches for two hours with their shenanigans.
The play was initially the product of the Reduced Shakespeare Company (RSC) that has been around for about 20 years. The present group of writers are Adam Long, Reed Martin & Austin Tichenor all graduates of UC, Berkeley, often called UC “Beserkely” and that may be where they were indoctrinated in the art of satiric farce that has been labeled “zany, hilarious, hysterical, irreverent and intellectual vaudeville.” It is all of these with the term raunchy/ribald aptly included but not sufficiently so to suggest that you leave Grandma at home.
Although the show is over 10 years old, written in the reign of Bill Clinton, it has recently been updated to take swipes at the presidencies of Richard Nixon (Watergate too), Ronald Reagan, George W Bush Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Whoopi Goldberg and others. Whoopi Goldberg? Yep, and even Lady Gaga. Don’t ask. The answer would spoil some of the fun. It ends up being extremely topical and you may cringe while laughing at our present turmoil in Washington.
The fun begins when Darren Bridgett, the leader of the triumvirate, starts out as Amerigo Vespucci preparing to discover the Americas with a reluctant wife played by Mick Mize with Cassidy Brown intrepidly intervening. It is escapist fare that follows somewhat chronologically, and often backward even to the Ice Age. Nothing is sacred. Not even the writing of the Constitution, the Boston Tea, Lewis and Clark exploring the Louisiana Purchase, the Civil War nor the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
The three actors are all excellent as they run rampant through the reams of dialog. They work together like a well oiled machine even when Darren fell into a defective stage trap door; our intrepid trio never drops a line. It seems fortuitous that is was MSC favorite Darren Bridgett who is adept at physical comedy could recover quickly to the delight of his adoring fans. He was not injured and his cohort Cassidy Brown, quipped to the audience “He will be removing splinters after the show.” This emphasizes the point that the authors have left room in the scripted dialog for the actors and director to insert local and topical references and they do this frequently to the delight of many. Darren gets his trademark excursion into the audience and there is even a history quiz with audience participation.
Their energy, comic timing and versatility are amazing and each gets their turn in the limelight. Cassidy Brown can be considered the “straight man” that is necessary for any vaudevillian act and he is an excellent match and foil for the others. Darren Bridgett is the leader/instigator of the action and handles the job with authority and style. It was W.C. Fields who advised aspiring actors to avoid being on the same stage with children. Darren should heed that warning and not share a stage with Mick Mize. Mize invests his role(s) with deadpan humor and body language timing whether he is in drag (as he often is) or giving us a nonsensical film noir lecture that is often interrupted (humorously) by Cassidy Brown and Darren.
Last but not least, the entire production crew deserves a bouquet of flowers for the huge number of props, costumes and wigs etc. that are terrific adding to enjoyment of the highly recommended production. Running time just over 2 hours with an intermission.
Kedar K. Adour, MD