Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Written by Andy Bayiates, Sean Benjamin, Genevra Gallo-Bayiates, Chloe Johnston, and Karen Weinberg
Directed by Sean Daniels
Review by Craig Idlebrook
(Lowell, MA) Do you know that dull portrait of all the U.S. presidents that’s on the inside binding of high school history textbooks? Mix it with an episode of Game of Thrones and an episode of Who’s Line is it Anyway?, and you have 45 Plays For 45 Presidents.
In this play, a cast of five provides frenetic snapshots of the salient moments of the presidencies of the 45 men (so far) who have held the post. This rapid-fire delivery of U.S. history can provide insights that a dull survey course cannot, like how many of the presidents failed utterly during their terms and were out of office within four years (or less). Also, one walks away with the startling realization that we had some terrible, terrible, terrible presidents who oversaw unspeakable atrocities.
This play succeeds in some ways and fails in others. If you’re looking for a show to hold your attention and give you an overview of U.S. history, this is the play for you. However, this isn’t really a play – it is a cacophony of historical noise with little narrative, much like U.S. history. Meaning is bludgeoned out of the stories by the nearly farcical world events that buffet each succeeding administration.
The other complaint I had is that the action overlaps so often that many of the lines become unintelligible. We don’t need to hear every line, but I got the impression there was a lot of important information lost because of a lack of mikes. Director and artistic director Sean Daniels is intent on bringing more dynamic and vibrant plays to MRT. While I applaud that, one hopes he can rig the sound system to handle the load.
While some of the “plays” captivated and others were little more than WTF moments, each one held my attention, and that’s more than I can say for any history book of all the U.S. presidents.
*Queen’s note: He is. Trump is the worst.