Theater Review: THE THANKSGIVING PLAY (Geffen)

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by Tony Frankel on November 14, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles


I can’t imagine a riper subject for satire than the chokehold that far-left liberal political correctness has on America. Playwright Larissa Fasthorse offers her 2015 comedy at The Geffen that is chock-full of the ridiculing we need, but satire without a story gets old fast. Instead of farce, which is grounded in reality and relies on what happens in the story, her tale merely pinpoints specific people — and newer PC theater conventions — to ridicule. As such, The Thanksgiving Play ends up being one long SNL skit.

Sure, Fasthorse can be fiercely and furiously funny, but little sticks here because she has little to say but “aren’t people silly?” And director Michael John Garcés — one quite familiar with this subject having worked with community and grants as Cornerstone Theatre’s Artistic Director — doesn’t help because these folks just aren’t believable. The four white adult people we meet assemble at a high school (“anywhere but the Los Angeles area,” Fasthorse instructs) where they attempt to craft an elementary school Thanksgiving play with an account that pays homage to Native American Heritage Month and the holiday itself — which turns out to be nothing like what we we’ve been told for years.

One of the creators, Logan (Samantha Sloyan) has received a Native American professional arts grant to produce the play. She takes on Jaxon (Noah Bean), her yogi/performer wannabe boyfriend, to act; Caden (Jeff Marlow), an elementary school history teacher nerdily desperate to be a playwright, to be a scribe; and starlet Alicia (Alexandra Henrikson), an insipid, kittenish bombshell who sees no reason why the casting couch is harmful (she was hired to perform because Logan thought she was Native American). For 90 minutes on Sara Ryung Clement’s awesome set lined with high school production posters — 4.48 Psychosis and American Buffalo among them (what a hoot!) — they will stay politically sensitive or heads will roll (and they do!). Not only is there a mess on stage at the end, but we still recognize the mess that American playwriting is in.

photos by Jeff Lorch

The Thanksgiving Play
Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater
Geffen Playhouse
10866 Le Conte Avenue in Westwood
Tues-Fri at 8; Sat at 3 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on December 6, 2019
for tickets, call 310.208.5454
or visit Geffen Playhouse

{ 1 comment }

JANET SALTER November 19, 2019 at 11:59 pm

The Thanksgiving Play would have been “Delicious” if it could have been written with less “sadness”! The dialogue and action somehow “Missed it!” The entire cast did their best but “back to the Drawing Board” might Save it even before it Ends! Painting their clothing isn’t that funny along with much more! (My late husband & I became 2 of the very first Patrons after it was a furniture store) I believe that this is the first time I have written re: “A disappointment”!
No one is perfect so Please Keep Up Your usual Fabulous Features Forever!!!

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