Running Jan. 5th – Jan. 21, 2017 Different Stages and OB Playhouse present AMERICAN HERO by Bess Wohl directed by Kristen Fogle.
The intimacy of the OB Playhouse is the perfect venue for this production of AMERICAN HERO. On the surface the play is a comedy about a group of down on their luck ‘losers’ who work at a franchised sub sandwich shop. But if that is all you get out of this play then you have missed the point. Buried deep within the condiment stained uniform of this play is a heart that reflects modern America. A group of young to middle aged citizens who’ve lost hope and feel like the American Dream they were all promised has somehow given up on them and run off into the sunset never to return.
Fogle has done an excellent job of casting here and each actor is truly given golden moments to shine in the play. In particular Lydia Lea Real (Jamie) delivers an outstanding performance as a woman who is desperately trying to keep her life on track while simultaneously trying to act like she doesn’t need anything or anyone’s help. Her eventual collapse brings the pivotal moment to the tension of the proceedings as she oversteps the line just a little too far and puts everything she hold dear in jeopardy. Real does a beautiful job of tearing down the walls of her character from outwardly tough and abrasive to delicately wounded and lost soul over the course of the play.
Michael Shantz (Ted) delivers a similarly nuanced performance as the middle aged man whose career has unexpectedly come to a halt in the downturn of the economy. His degrees rendered useless he clings to his positivity like a security blanket as he tries to convince himself that preparing sandwiches could be his next ladder to climb to get back into the corporate world.
Claudette Santiago (Sheri) is mesmerizing as the diminutive and soft spoken junior member of the sandwich making team who is working multiple shifts to make ends meet so that she can take care of not only herself but her family too. She is burning the candles at both ends as so many of us do and just tries to keep her head down to avoid confrontations and to just get through the day so she can get paid. But when things go terribly wrong it is this quietly strong woman who rises to the challenge and finds a way to succeed only to have ‘corporate’ find new and exciting ways to knock her back down to the floor.
Filling out the stellar performances of the cast is M. Keala Miles, Jr. (playing Bob and a few other roles). Miles fills the shoes of both the disenfranchised franchise owner and the corporate shill who is sent to ‘fix’ the situation at the store. He turns a wonderful delivery on both accounts portraying the dizzying terror of a man who’s in over his head and as a suit determined to win at everything, including one-upping everyone on the ‘pity me’ scale.
In the end, in AMERICAN HERO, there are no heroes… just victims of an establishment that has put profitability before compassion, the bottom line before the welfare of its human resources… people who are shell shocked and broken but who are clinging to the hope that their dreams can still be revived. Maybe that’s the hero in all of us? That voice of hope?
AMERICAN HERO runs 90 minutes without intermission.
For tickets and showtimes visit OBPlayhouse.com