Can You Still Stomach the US Constitution?

Heidi Schreck in “What the Constitution Means to Me” at New York Theatre Workshop (image by Joan Marcus).

When she was 15, Heidi Schreck provided speeches about the United States Constitution in American Legion halls throughout the nation to win loan for college. Her teenage years were invested in these stuffy passages lined with pictures of guys, a lot of whom were likewise in her audience choosing whether she should have scholarship funds. In her memory, these guys were constantly seated completely military uniform, smoking cigarettes stogies.

What you see onstage throughout the very first half of Schreck’’ s latest play, What the Constitution Means to Me , at the New York Theatre Workshop , is a facsimile of her time as a teenage apostle for among America’s starting files. Now 40 years of ages, the playwright and starlet reviews her past with the bitter aftertaste of a democracy run by President Donald Trump, whose chauvinistic outbursts over the last 2 years cast a bleak shadow throughout Schreck’’ s story. That’s due to the fact that she isn’t at first thinking about catering the everlasting American optimism of her youth, although she’’ ll arrive later on; rather, Schreck initially desires her audiences to comprehend how hard it is for ladies to reside in a nation whose structure usually prefers abundant white guys.

Mike Iveson in ““ What the Constitution Means to” Me ” at New York Theatre Workshop (image by Joan Marcus).

Towards the start of the play, Schreck describes that her speeches about the Constitution frequently used sophisticated metaphors. Carrying out as her teenage self, she compares the Constitution to a magic crucible, while her rivals propose blander analyses of the file as a patchwork quilt or a forest of living trees. ““ You put components therein, like ferrous alloys or lobsters, and boil them all up together up until they make something else,” ” Schreck states. Her intelligence brings these maniacal metaphors to amazingly credible conclusions, the method a dazzling teacher may be able to describe the whole of macroeconomics with a number of toothpicks and a bag of skittles.

““ A crucible is likewise a serious test of persistence or belief,” ” she quickly clarifies. ““ The Constitution can be considered a boiling pot in which we are thrown up in sizzling and steamy dispute to learn what it is we actually think.” ” Schreck is a MacGyver of constitutional argument, discussing the file’s Amendments and provisions through incredible accomplishments of metaphor.

Channeling her in some cases overzealous commitment to the Constitution for remarkable result, Schreck understands how to construct optimism in the American prior to drilling down to its more deadly core. One through line is her love for Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas , who utilized Amendments Nine and Fourteen in the significant 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling to develop a lady’s right to birth control on the basis of a specific’’ s right to personal privacy. Blissfully, Schreck explains Amendment Nine as a wonderful ““ penumbra ” that the left deliberately unclear adequate to set aside people additional rights not clearly identified in the Constitution’s text. Minutes later on, nevertheless, she exposes that Douglas’ ’ landmark viewpoint on the Griswold case had less to do with judicial heroism than it finished with the judge’’ s own self-interest. The 67-year-old justice was sleeping with a 22-year-old university student at the time, and 4 other judges on the Griswold court were reported to have actually been sleeping with girls.

Heidi Schreck in “What the Constitution Means to Me” at New York Theatre Workshop (picture by Joan Marcus).

There is no doubt that Schreck is a professional solo entertainer. Her congenial mindset eases the play’s numerous tense minutes, however there’s something wrong here. Hers is the sly sincerity of a fox: the noncommittal method she mumbles through the script persuades the audience that this evening’’ s specific efficiency is an unscripted, ad-libbed action beyond the play’s typical regimen. It’s an unique ability that enables her to get intimate with the audience as she talks about generations of household injury, gender predisposition, and abortion. The genius of this wonderful piece is how Schreck weaves that now almost-archetypal patter of a one-woman program into the material these days’s controversial political disputes.

Fortunately, Schreck likewise means to recover a few of the distress she uncovers throughout What the Constitution Means to Me. The program’s last minutes happily broaden our perspective into the program’s titular thesis by presenting a young debater, the whip-smart Rosdely Ciprian. (The efficiency I saw included 14-year-old Ciprian, however other nights star her equivalent, Thursday Williams.) Ciprian’’ s surprise look is twofold: she is here to challenge the presumptions about the Constitution that Schreck has actually developed through the play, and likewise to provide a picture of what 14 years of ages really appears like.

Rosdely Ciprian in “What the Constitution Means to Me” at New York Theatre Workshop (image by Joan Marcus).

A self-serious debater with the discipline of a champ orator, Ciprian argues in favor of keeping the Constitution instead of trashing it and beginning once again. Unlike Schreck, she does not require a wonderful crucible to conjure the optimism manifest in the pledge of a constitutional democracy. She would rather consider the file as a person. ““ Are people ideal? No. Are we efficient in excellence? No. That doesn’’ t mean we are not important. We are constantly altering and growing. Knowing. Much like us, this file is flawed. Simply like us, it is likewise capable of getting much better. And much better. With every generation.””


Ciprian ’ s perky defense of the Constitution injects the play’’ s ending with much-needed uplift. Her hopefulness does not feel naïve; rather, it crackles with the pledge of bold youth not yet soured to the possibilities of modification. If a teen can have hope for the world, then why can’t we?

What the Constitution Means to Me continues through November 4 at the New York Theatre Workshop (79 East 4th Street, East Village, Manhattan).

Written and directed by Heidi Schreck; directed by Oliver Butler; likewise including Rosdely Ciprian, Mike Iveson, and Thursday Williams; picturesque style by Rachel Hauck; outfit style by Michael Krass; lighting style by Jen Schriever; sound style by Sinan Zafar; dramaturgy by Sarah Lunnie; phase management by Terri K. Kohler. The play was commissioned by True Love Productions and prudced in collaboration with Clubbe Thumb.

The post Can You Still Stomach the United States Constitution? appeared initially on Hyperallergic .

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