Production History: “The America Play”

Production History: “The America Play”

Compiled by Denzel Belin

Reggie Montgomery and Michael Potts in THE AMERICA PLAY


THE AMERICA PLAY by Suzan-Lori Parks.  Directed by Liz Diamond. January 1993.  WORLD PREMIERE.

“In “The America Play” at the Yale Repertory Theater, Suzan-Lori Parks is mistrusting time and memory. Examining what she calls “reconstructed historicities,” she implies that everything we have learned from history books, except for mere facts in isolation, is unfinished, to be summed up in one of her lingering phrases: “So says hearsay.””

“For verbal acrobatics, perpetual punning and provoking subtexts, “The America Play” is a cerebral workout. As much a collaborator and orchestrator as a director, Liz Diamond stages the sounds and the reverberations of Ms. Parks’s words with the lyric flow of a visual poem. Riccardo Hernandez has designed a stark, striking canvas, replete with a Lincoln pasteboard. The setting is at one with the abstraction, suggestiveness and possibilities of space that Ms. Parks’s jumpy words invite.”

“Throughout, Ms. Parks’s ideas are so crammed and arbitrarily unfolded that her play — her play as a play — is neither fathomable nor cohesive. But her unanswerable questions are freeing; the verbal and temporal leaps, even the vastness of her intentions, are invigorating.”

Alvin Klein, New York Times


Theater@Boston Court presents The America Play  

A Theater@Boston Court presentation of a play in two acts by Suzan-Lori Parks. Directed by Nancy Keystone.

Sets, Keystone; costumes, Jeannique Prospere; lighting, Justin Townsend; original music-sound, Randy Tico; production stage manager, John Freeland Jr. Opened Oct. 14, 2006. Reviewed Oct. 19. Runs through Nov. 19. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.

“In act two, Keystone’s carnival set has been struck to stunningly transform the stage into a black hole, complete with thick mounds of dirt from proscenium to back wall.”

“Author assigns Lucy mighty labors to restore her house divided, but Brooks is ill suited to them. That she is at least 20 years too young for the role is less significant than her lack of aesthetic weight. Blithe, even giddy where she should be grimly purposeful, she plays at, rather than inhabits, a wife with the single-minded quest of redeeming her husband’s legacy. The couple’s lack of connection creates a major hole in dramatic interest.”

“Setting aside the second-act slackness, Keystone proves to be a helmer to watch, as she mixes scenes without demanding the audience dwell on them. By refusing to allow thematic resonance to take precedence over the human drama, she avoids the directorial self-indulgence that so often renders nonrealistic plays unwatchable.”

– Bob Verini, Variety


“Keystone and her ferociously committed cast join Parks’ disturbing but lyrical visualization to boldly sabotage our contentment with the myths that have been fed to us, symbols meant to legitimize our past and our present whether accurate or not. It is a jarring, often humorous vision, made more disturbing by the use of Ebonics to speak a brazen new eloquence.”

– Travis Michael Holder, Backstage West


Photo credit: Daria Maidenbaum



Other American Cousins by Quinn D. Eli and Kimmika L. H. Williams-Witherspoon

Directed by Suzana Berger (The America Play) and Malika Oyetimein (Other American Cousins)

April 4-28, 2013

Plays & Players Skinner Studio

Two world premiere 10-minute plays, both titled “Our American Cousin,” alternated as prologues to “The America Play.” Named for the play President Lincoln was watching when he was shot, examined American’s place in today’s world and served as a prologue to The America Play.

Quinn D. Eli grew up in the Bronx and lives now in Philadelphia. His short plays have appeared in Best American Ten-Minute Plays and been produced throughout the country. Longer works include the award-winning My Name is Bess, produced by Trustus Theatre; Hazardous, produced locally at Society Hill Playhouse; and Hot Black/Asian Action, a satire about sexual and racial stereotypes that premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival. The two-time recipient of Fellowships in Literature from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Eli has served as a Playwright-in-Residence at Plays & Players Theatre.