American Hero a solid winner by Custom Made
American Hero: Comedy by Bess Wohl. Directed by Allie Moss. Custom Made Theatre, Custom Made Theatre, 533 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA. just one block north of Union Square. (415) 798-CMTC (2682) or www.custommade.org. March 13 – April 6, 2019.
American Hero a solid winner by Custom Made. Rating:
There is an indistinct line between satirical farce and serious social dilemmas “wrapped” in humor. Initially the opening scenes of Custom Made’s spirited production of Bess Whol’s American Hero could be either. The tip-off that it is the latter is based on the fact that the expertly detailed colorful compact set (Heather Kenyon) has only two doors rather than the obligatory 4 doors needed for farce. As the play progresses that beautiful colorful set signifying the start of the American Dream gradually becomes a non-de-script gray box but with a powerful but problematic ending.
Place: Toasted Subs Sandwich franchise somewhere in America. Time: Recent past. Main characters: Sheri (one r and one i) a 19 year old working two jobs and perpetually tired, single mother Jamie in a custody battle for her children with raging hormones and former B of A executive Ted with an MBA who is accustomed to be “in Charge.”
They all have been hired at minimal wage by Bob, a foreigner and former doctor who has spent his fortune to buy this sandwich franchise that is only three minutes away from a competing franchise. With the initial hilarious scene where Bob is trying to teach the trio the intricacies of selling, (The Baser), sandwich constructer (The Finisher) and the Wrapping it is apparent the venture is doomed to failure. A sandwich must be completed within 20 seconds. Bob insists his new hires “go by the book.”
Unfortunately the corporate book is designed to make money for the corporation. . . the initial price for a franchise is exorbitant, disposable products must be bought from the company and the food purchased from specific suppliers often with a mark-up in cost. What starts out as a win-win situation for Bob and his intrepid workers becomes a losing situation. Bob disappears and as the supplies dwindle the trio invents ways to stay afloat since they are dependent on the income from their jobs.
They start to sell homemade sandwiches with major emphasis on the ubiquitous comforting peanut butter and jelly. As their solutions become even more ludicrous they form a tighter bond of “good old American Spirit” working for a common good. Their telephone messages attempts to contact the corporate leaders go unanswered. When a man from the corporate offices does show up: “We don’t accept messages but we do accept mail.”
That visit of the man from the head office leads to a very violent scene that seems “tacked on” without good reason leading to a tense ambiguous ending.
While there are questions about the writing, the acting, direction and staging make this a solid should see show. Devon deGroot makes you feel Sheri’s perpetual tiredness yet takes an equal share of the accolades earned by Laura Espino’s sexy yet emotionally damaged Jamie and Paul Stout’s take charge attitude hides the fall off the business ladder by his character Ted. David Boyll shows great skill as he changes from Bob with a barely intelligible accent and to the no nonsense corporate man. He also doubles as a sandwich in a dream sequence and a disgruntled unsatisfied customer.
CAST: David Boyll as Bob, Customer, Sandwich, Gregory; Devon deGroot as Sheri; Laura Espino as Jamie; Paul Stout as Ted.
CREATIVE TEAM: Director, Allie Moss; Scenic Designer, Heather Kenyon; Costume Designer, Erika Mae Martin; Lighting Designer, Brittany Mellerson; Sound Designer, Lynessa Flowers; Properties Designer, Stephanie Dittbern; Fight Choreographer, Jon Bailey; Stage Manager, Michelle Bank.
Running time 90 minutes without intermission.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.