Posted on: March 24, 2024 Posted by: Noelle Chase Comments: 0

As a child growing up in America, I of course knew about the American Dream. Who hasn’t? In elementary school, I was taught about how great our country was and how it’s a place with one dream, The American Dream. But what was that dream? Still to this day, I don’t know, because as in the play “The American Dream”, it’s a deeply flawed concept. To my delight, the play fully delves head first into deconstructing the American Dream from head to toe.

To begin, the actors were phenomenal in each of their roles. Alex Hanson manages to convincingly portray the domineering energy of the character of Mommy, perfectly playing the delicate role of a woman who tries her best to keep up appearances. Similarly, Aidan McQuire as Daddy manages to both portray the head of the household he wants to be seen as and the submissive husband he truly is. The two play off of each other spectacularly well and convincingly play up the roles of a couple who are equal parts as awful as the other. The final member of the household is Grandma, played by Stephanie Zaragoza. Out of all the performances, Stephanie’s my favorite. With body language as well as her words she portrays exactly what a cranky but honest elder would be like. Grandma is the only character in the play who doesn’t hesitate to call it as it is.

Outside of the family, there are two characters. Each actor gives a more subdued performance, a great contrast to the loud facade that the family puts up. Saniah Johnson plays Mrs. Barker, a relatively normal and honest woman. She contrasts Mommy well because she is exactly as she claims to be, she does not need to boast about anything she has or has done. The final role in the play is the Young Man played by Jalin Rivera. He convincingly manages to portray someone who followed the American Dream and is the ideal, but is as deeply flawed as the rest of the cast.

The set is a simple star-shaped stage with a few chairs, a couch, and a coffee table. It is within this simple set that the story takes to life. Due to its simplicity, there is nothing there to distract us from the acting. The stage also looks like the stereotypical nuclear family living room portrayed by media, which sets the tone for the facade the family puts up.

The costumes also help portray these characters as they are. Mommy is given a wig with what in popular culture is now likened to the ‘Karen Haircut’, which does wonders to give us a view into what we are expecting. Daddy is given a suit that lets him pretend to be the person he is trying to pretend he is. Grandma doesn’t dress up, she just runs around in her PJs, which showcases how she doesn’t care about appearances. Mrs. Barker starts in a red dress but ends up in a nude underdress for most of the play, which shows she has nothing to hide, unlike Mommy and Daddy. The Young Man dresses like a guy, which shows that he isn’t the epitome of the American Dream, he is just a person like all of them.

Part of the reason I enjoyed this play so much is the humor. This play could have easily been boring to all sin but the humor is what makes it work. From something as simple as Mommy’s opening monologue about the hat she bought being wheat not beige like she was promised. This could have come off as annoying but Alex manages to make Mommy’s rude entitlement entertaining. Equally Daddy’s cowardice while Mommy’s trying to get him to act like the man of the house, could have been insufferable but his actor makes him deeply entertaining. Grandma’s conversation with Mrs. Barker about why the two called her to their house, which was by far the most serious part of the play, is injected with tasteful humor. The humor made the objective horror of what she is saying easier to swallow.

What I liked deeply about this play is that it feels real. These characters while caricatures of real people, feel real. As someone who has had a parental figure obsessed with the false notion of the American Dream, someone obsessed with appearances and faces, it felt like a reflection of my own experiences. Mommy and Daddy’s mutilation of the ‘bumble’ because it wasn’t what they wanted it to be reminded me of how those who don’t or can’t fit into the mold are treated poorly. Beneath the humor lies a tale about more people who self-destruct because they are trying to cling to a perfect ideal that doesn’t exist. The Young Man is shown to have become the ideal, the American Dream, but he loses his ability to feel anything to achieve it.

I also enjoy that while the ‘bumble’ is most likely a child, it can be used as a metaphor for many other things. I took it as a metaphor for how the foster system treats children some of the time, while others could take it for how the government treats its citizens.

I entered this play not knowing what to expect but I left with many lingering thoughts on the idea of the American Dream. This play doesn’t hesitate to tell the truth, and it doesn’t mince its words. So it’s best to listen to what it says now so we don’t become like those it portrays.

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