Theater Info for the Washington DC region

U.S.A.: American Century Theater Brings History to Life

By • Jun 26th, 2006 • Category: Reviews

Listen to our review of The American Century Theater’s production of U.S.A. [MP3 3:11 1MB].

Laura: This afternoon we saw The American Century Theater‘s production of U.S.A. by Paul Shyre and John Dos Passos.

Mike: The play U.S.A. is based on the U.S.A Trilogy written by John Dos Passos written in the the 1930’s. The three novels were published and used an experimental technique. They incorporated fictional realism, newspaper clippings, and biographies in order to show the first three decades of the United States in the 1900’s. The events in the play took place from 1899 up through 1929. There were several characters introduced, but there was not an overall plot. It’s simply a series of vignettes that pull the show together.

Laura: I thought this was an interesting show. I think people will enjoy it if they have an interest in history. I have an interest in history, but I don’t know a lot about history so I thought it was a very informative show.

Mike: A few of the vignettes will be events that you’re familiar with. For example the Wright Brother’s first heavier than air flight. Another important scene was the dedication of the building of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. There were a few vignettes that covered events that I was not familiar with such as Isodora Duncan and her contribution to modern dance. They told the story of her life.

Bruce Rauscher, Monalisa Arias and Evan Hoffman

Laura: The setting of this production was really interesting. It was a simple set. They just had blocks on stage and planks that could be made into a table. They were very free to arrange different scenes. There was also an overhead projector that would show a newsreels and they would announce news clippings throughout the decades from 1899 to 1930 that I think were really well done. It kind of brought it all together and helped with the history of the time period.

Mike: Each of the six actors played multiple roles. They would be on stage as a secretary and then they would come on as a flapper and then they would simply transition into other characters as the scene required. It was done really effectively. Each of the actors were not on stage the entire time. They were really good about keeping extra actors of stage when they didn’t need to be there. The activity of the actors coming on and off stage and changing their roles really kept the show moving along at a nice clip. It didn’t feel like the show was ever dragging or moving along slowly.

Evan Hoffman, Patricia Hurley, Monalisa Arias, Bruce Rausher

Laura: The costumes that the actors wore were also really well done. They were detailed. When it was time for the men to wear white spats they did so. The women’s costumes, unfortunately, looked really uncomfortable. But they were the style of the time, with the really poofy sleeves. I thought that was really well done. There were a few times when I felt he music was too loud and drowned out what the actors were saying, but all in all I did enjoy U.S.A. very much.

Mike: U.S.A. is playing at the Gunston Theater Two in Arlington, Virginia through July 15th.

Laura: And now, on with the show.

Evan Hoffman and Amy Quiggins

Photographs courtesy of American Century Theater

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