Aired on KSDS-FM on 10/6/17
RUN DATES: 9/23/17 – 10/15/17
VENUE: New Village Arts
When I heard the title of Bess Wohl’s play, “American Hero,” I thought it was going to be about a courageous act, having just seen “A Piece of My Heart,” about women in Vietnam. Then I read that it was about people in low-paying jobs, stressed and threatened by the Great Recession, which reminded me of the wonderful drama, “Skeleton Crew.”
“American Hero” doesn’t come close to those, but it has lofty aims.
The action is set in a strip-mall sandwich shop. Two of the three so-called “sandwich artists” we meet have lost their prior employment. The other works two minimum wage jobs: one that ends at 4am, while this one starts at 7am.
The three employees are very different, and they bond somewhat, including an awkward, non-credible sex act. Soon after opening day, they find that their immigrant boss has disappeared and the franchise is in limbo, at peril of closure. There are other immigrants, perhaps the young girl working to support a sick father.
She’s the one who gives us a dream sequence, featuring a superhero that’s supposed to look like a sandwich, but in this production, looks nothing of the sort… though he does spark some serious ingenuity in the young girl, to keep the business going.
Late in the generally slow-moving 90-minute piece, a guy from corporate headquarters arrives, in a completely improbable turn that leaves the trio worse off than when they began.
So, what exactly is the playwright trying to say? Her play seems to be a collection of issues raised and abandoned, questions unresolved and points not satisfactorily made.
At New Village Arts, under the guidance of artistic director Kristianne Kurner, the four actors are obviously working hard (sometimes acting to excess). The three sandwich makers don’t exhibit a significant amount of credible camaraderie. The fourth actor plays a bevy of other characters, in an array of ill-considered wigs. The set, lighting and sound are serviceable.
But the piece comes off as too sad to be funny and too superficial to be meaningful.
©2017 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews