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The American Tradition

From 8 critic and 25 member reviews
Members say: Relevant, Ambitious, Great acting, Clever, Thought-provoking

About the show

New Light Theater Project's world premiere is set in Antebellum America with an absurd and Brechtian twist.  More…

Fictitious characters Eleanor—cross-dressing as a white planter—and her husband, Bill—pretending to be her loyal servant—attempt to escape to the free state of Pennsylvania. Their operation is running smoothly until they meet Walsh, a drunk planter and member of the Not All Slavers organization, who steals Bill at a rest stop. Armed with a Glock-19 and her fair skin, Eleanor sets out to rescue him by any means necessary.



85
Time Out New York

“In Ray Yamanouchi's very dark comedy, set in a cockeyed version of the antebellum South, a light-skinned woman poses as a white male slaver and tries to escape to Pennsylvania with her husband...Axel Alvin Jr. directs the premiere, which whooshes by in a taut 75 minutes and features exceptionally committed acting from a cast of five: Danie Steel, Martin K. Lewis, Sydney Cole Alexander, Hunter Canning and the remarkable Alex Herrald as a hard-drinking, fast-talking plantation owner.” Full Review

85
Theatre is Easy

“A century-bending, darkly funny interrogation of America's racist past and present...Director Axel Avin, Jr. stages an unsettling, momentum-building production that follows, per Yamanouchi’s instructions in the script, the Brechtian technique of alienation...Yamanouchi’s invitation for white audiences to find the funny in what may well be a reflection of themselves paves the path for a gut-punch of an explosion...A fast-talking, passionate, messy work of art." Full Review

80
Plays to See

“‘The American Tradition’ appears at first glance to be a vivid glimpse into the past, but it immediately calls into question how much racial injustice really is history...At its most basic, the story is purely historical. But Yamanouchi smartly writes his 19th-century characters as parallels to 21st-century archetypes...Agree with its comparison of eras or not, ‘The American Tradition’ bears an emotional potency that sticks in the mind regardless.” Full Review

70
Lighting & Sound America

"Under the direction of Axel Avin, Jr., the action is fast and furious, the playwright making his points with hammer-like force. At times, some of his blows are self-inflicted, however...All five cast members deliver strongly defined performances...Comes out of the gate furiously, only to ultimately peter out, failing to deliver a satisfying ending; indeed, it simply grinds to a halt." Full Review

70
New Yorker

“The title of Ray Yamanouchi’s new play could refer to its subject, slavery, or to this country’s skill at wrestling entertainment out of unlikely topics—in this case, the tale of two nineteenth-century runaways trying to make their way north...Directed by Avin, Jr., the gleefully anachronistic show is admittedly a bit of a mess, but it also has a rambunctious punk-rock energy that’s all too rare on our increasingly sanitized stages.” Full Review

70
Off Off Online

"Yamanouchi doesn’t come up with much that’s fresh beyond his approach...Still, in a satire on subjects as volatile as racism, slavery and the Klan, it’s to the credit of director Axel Avin, Jr. that the production avoids the sledgehammer tastelessness of...Spike Lee’s 'Bamboozled' and brings out Yamanouchi’s sly humor...Avin’s actors handle the mash-up of periods with aplomb...Yamanouchi’s message...may be familiar, but the packaging and performances are just lively enough to put it over." Full Review

70
TheaterScene.net

"On another level, the play is a sort of sociopolitical farce, reminiscent of productions that The San Francisco Mime Troupe has been staging for decades, often on makeshift outdoor stages. And it's not just mistaken identities sparked by disguises that make 'The American Tradition' farcical. It's also the play's pace and energy. Yes, there are some longer, somewhat drawn-out soliloquies. But even when the play turns grim and violent and full of disturbing racial content." Full Review

50
Theater Pizzazz

"Yamanouchi's inherently melodramatic play isn't intended to be taken literally. Slightly reminiscent of Branden Jacobs-Jenkin's far superior 'An Octoroon,' it's far less inventively produced, with thematic points that are neither new, revelatory, or especially convincing…Whatever the play's thoughts, they aren't particularly well conveyed through Yamanouchi's cartoonish characters, barely funny japeries, anachronistic language and props…and a torrent of four-letter words." Full Review


88
Great writing, Edgy, Intense, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You are ready to take a critical look at American history, like sharp political critique and fast paced storytelling

Don't see it if You wear a MAGA hat, are uncomfortable hearing the "N-word", dislike seeing guns/blanks being shot.

84
Thought-provoking, Exciting, Uneven, Well played

See it if you are interested in experiencing a deliberately provocative take on how the legacy of slavery continues to shape the US today.

Don't see it if you get queasy when you have to take a hard look at the dark underbelly of US history.

Also "The American Tradition" is a loud, fast, sometimes outrageous, delibe... Read more Read less

84
Entertaining, Great staging, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant

See it if A talented group of actors skillfully navigate numerous characters through slavery issues

Don't see it if Some anachronistic touches and cruelty offend you.

81
Clever, Great acting, Entertaining, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you would enjoy a fresh take on the antebellum south in an entertaining story that could have been true. Strong acting and support team.

Don't see it if you are skittish with strong language and violence or want a full staged production - this is minimal but effective staging and costuming.

80
Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Ambitious

See it if you like seeing historical plays with a modern twist.

Don't see it if you go to theater to escape racial/political things, don't like anachronism used in the service of storytelling.

Also I really enjoyed this play. It's very simply staged with really good a... Read more Read less

80
Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great staging, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if you want a taste of the roots of racism in this country. The play has creative staging, strong acting and is even funny at times.

Don't see it if This play addresses slavery and racism from several points of view. It's raw, blunt and disturbing, but very well done.

79
Ambitious, Funny, Quirky, Intense

See it if U like political theatre; you'd like a play with a fairly original plot.

Don't see it if U're expecting a historical drama.The plot involves an attempted slave escape, but the slaves have modern attitudes, attitudes & gestures.

Also Imagine watching a dream sequence in which current day whites & Africa... Read more Read less

79
Ambitious, Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You are interested in race matters & US history with a twist on gender. You enjoy works in progress - this is very good but needs tweaking

Don't see it if You want high production values - this is low cost - basic staging - performances hold audience attention.

Also The story is bookended by two modern scenes, the 1st is shocking & unn... Read more Read less

78
Relevant, Edgy, Ambitious, Humorous, Thought-provoking

See it if you want an intense story sprinkled with humor.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy contemporary language (including lots of cursing) used in an historical setting. You don't like actors playing multiple role

78
Relevant

See it if You are a liberal and want to root for what you believe in

Don't see it if you want to see something that is fair and balanced

Also Everything about this play is above average or better. But you may or ... Read more Read less

78
Fascinating but flawed

See it if Fast paced, some humor, engaging story, some great dialogue and devices. Excellent performances.

Don't see it if I felt like I needed a tie in at the end to the brief opening scene. Kept expecting that to happen.

75
Gets you thinking, who can you trust when you can trust no one

See it if Good acting See how to deal with fear when the world is your enemy

Don't see it if too much unnecessary profanity that does not add to the script some 20th Century cliches seem out of context

69
Disappointing, Great acting

See it if Period piece on slavery.

Don't see it if Theme of story not completely worked out.

65
Cliched, Banal, Good acting

See it if you enjoy shows that explore slavery and its affects on America and American history to present day. The cast makes a valiant effort.

Don't see it if you expect it to delve deeper than the fact that American history is intertwined with its shameful history of slavery.

60
Ambitious, Banal, Cliched, Dated, Disappointing

See it if You like the author or know someone in the play

Don't see it if Your looking for anything original or particularly funny. Your critical of melodrama intermixed with slightly funny lines.

Also Overworked topic not very well done misses the mark. You get a valiant... Read more Read less

95
Great acting, Funny, Ambitious, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you like theatrical, Brechtian storytelling...the play is anachronistic which works really well comparing past to today.

Don't see it if like traditional theater. Violence and disturbing language are also part of the story.

88
Great acting, Relevant, Intense, Ambitious, Funny

See it if you like Brechtian theater...focuses on actors connecting to audience and breaking 4th wall, highlighting/connecting past to present day.

Don't see it if you prefer lavish productions with happy endings. This one forces you to think about race in America.

85
During previews
Clever, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if you want to experience ante-bellum America from the realistic perspective of runaway enslaved persons, brought forward to modern relevance.

Don't see it if you prefer comedies (this play has comic moments but the overall mood is dark), musicals, lavish sets and costumes, or no racial themes.

81
During previews
Ambitious, Edgy, Intense, Clever

See it if you want to see an intense, fast-paced slave-escape adventure, seen through a modern lens. Historical gender-bending intrigues you.

Don't see it if anachronisms bother you, you want a bigger show, you are offended by so much arguing (there's a lot of it), you get confused easily.

Also I saw the first preview, so the cast had a manic energy (my companion ... Read more Read less

74
During previews
Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Resonant, Relevant

See it if You’re interested in experiencing what it felt like to be a slave in US 1800’s

Don't see it if You want a musical.

68
During previews
Ambitious, Disappointing, Funny, Relevant, Quirky

See it if you are interested in the history of slavery in America, you'd like to see a radical reinterpretation of same, you like post-modern theater

Don't see it if you like authenticity of speech and coherence of ideas

Also Judging by the final right-wing monologue followed by dead silence and... Read more Read less

58
During previews
Intense, Quirky, Excruciating, Overrated, Insipid

See it if You are interested in a new take on the age-old slavery question.

Don't see it if You can’t deal with dialogue that is for a good portion of the play shouted at you and actors who overact and are not believable.

85
During previews
Relevant, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if you like historical slavery story told in a Brechtian way. The change of the actors from one character to another is fast and good to watch.

Don't see it if you don't want to see a play about racism, or if you expect to see a traditional play/musical with big sets. It is a small theater.

52
During previews
Clever, Disappointing, Indulgent, Well-intentioned, Misguided

See it if You're interested in an irreverent take on American history.

Don't see it if You want incisive racial/political commentary, you love detailed period pieces, or you're uncomfortable with repeated use of racial slurs.

Also The American Tradition is a well-intentioned comedy about an unlikely ... Read more Read less

72
During previews
Ambitious, Clever, Entertaining

See it if you want to experience a slave narrative that feels contemporary and—dare I say it?—fun (and not gratitiously offensive à la Slave Play).

Don't see it if you don’t enjoy a Brechtian aesthetic; you’re offended by insinuations that today’s GOP is yesteryear’s slave holder.

Also There were some production hiccups that I’d attribute to previews. The... Read more Read less


Cast & Creatives (12)