I didn't really know what to expect, because I hadn't read much of the advance press on the show. I knew that Schreck performed the piece herself and I knew it was based on her life (in a way), but that's about it. So when I say I was completely taken aback by the power and quality of the storytelling and the story, believe me. At one point, Schreck charmingly says something like "It may seem like I'm rambling, but I'm not. Contrary to popular belief, this piece has been very carefully constructed." It got a HUGE laugh and was another terrific meta moment in a show full of them.
|photo credit: Sara Krulwich|
Eventually, as Schreck gets further and further into talking about the Constitution and how it has affected generations of her family, the artifice of the teenage competitions falls away and we're now seeing an adult woman struggle with how this document has let her, and generations of women, continually down. We hear about the Equal Protection Clause and the Castle Rock v Gonzalez Supreme Court trial. We hear about Schreck's great-great-grandmother, who was shipped to Washington State after her great-great-grandfather ordered her from a catalog and who subsequently died at 36 in a mental hospital, diagnosis 'melancholia.' We hear about years of cycles of abuse that the women in her family has suffered and how she has used these personal stories to realize that the Constitution isn't really designed to protect women (or people of color, or immigrants, or LGBTQ folks) at all. We also hear from Mike Iveson and his story is just as heartbreaking.
|photo credit: Joan Marcus|
The last part of the show is also genius - Schreck brings out a teenaged girl, about the same age as she was when she was winning these competitions, to do a live debate over whether or not we should abolish the Constitution and start over with a new one. There are two girls that alternate in this role; I saw Rosdely Ciprian, who was whip-smart, funny, adorable, and I would vote for her for anything in a minute. The debate was fascinating and I could see either side winning - we even got our own pocket copies of the Constitution so we could follow along and then take them home! I could say a whole lot more about the show, or about my seat neighbors, who were millennial manspreading armrest hogs, but I think I'll err on the side of letting you experience the show for yourself.
Everything about the show, from the pre-show music, to the direction, to the set that was hysterically and horrifyingly accurate (how long can we look at rows and rows of photos of white men?!?!), to the sound design, was terrifically done. What the Constitution Means to Me is a wonderfully enjoyable evening of theater and it's also an incredibly powerful piece of political resistance. YOU SHOULD GO. A woman telling her story and the story of other women is what we need right now. We all need to tell our stories until finally someone hears us. Until finally this country, our government, and the documents there to protect us, actually consider us one of 'we the people.' The fact that this message is embedded inside a play written by a woman makes me incredibly proud. Please go. The run has just been extended, so there's no excuse to miss it.