Friday, August 5, 2011

History: Fact, Fiction or Folklore?

After attending the opening night of Marin Shakespeare Company's The Complete History of America (abridged) I'm convinced that the one who tells the American story holds the key to its truth. And the version this production tells is definitely worth seeing!

Actors Darren Bridgett, Cassidy Brown and Mick Mize under the direction of Robert Currier led the audience on a wild goose chase across the 200+ landscape of American history. Sitting beneath the stars at the Forest Meadows Amphitheater (Dominican University, San Rafael, CA) everyone was kept spell bound as the cast romped merrily from Amerigo Vespucci to President Barak Obama in less than two hours.

They held us captive as they zig-zagged into and out of American aspirations, ingenuity and inspirations. From start to finish, well-timed antics and patriotic colors framed this fast-paced production that ultimately showed us how Americans - a unique species on the planet - may not really be so different from their neighbors.

For example, their renditions of a Civil War slide show with Yankees and Confederates posing mid-war for posterity suggests we all are looking for moments of glory. The sleuthing efforts of Detective Sam Spade tell us that lone, crime-solving tough guys really may not be so tough when it comes to love.

I have written before that the distance between folklore and history is not as vast as many would think. This play confirms for me that while history chronicles the data of events in a particular documented sequence (who did what when), it is the folklore - the beliefs, traditions and customs of a certain people - that actually fill in the blanks of our humanity.

The actors' perfect timing and obvious chemistry captured the audience's attention. Not a moment was wasted. Even my teenage daughter and her twenty-something cousin were kept in stitches as the scenes flew by, reminding all of us - regardless of our age - how we got from Vespucci's map to President Obama's bump and grind.

The play, made popular by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, runs through September 25. Here are the details:
The Complete History of America (abridged)

Forest Meadows Amphitheater, Dominican University,1475 Acacia Ave., San Rafael, CA
Box Office: (415) 499-448.
Photo by Eric Chazankin

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