- Abe Lincoln: A One Man Show
- Reviewed by Tim Treanor
- It seems difficult to believe, given the rolling thunder of his prose, but Abe Lincoln was not a particularly good speaker. Contemporaries of the sixteenth President describe his voice as high and reedy, and he frequently had difficulty making himself heard. He was a successful lawyer and a compelling debater in spite, rather than because, of his oratorical skills.
Thus the actor who elects to play Lincoln must first decide whether to play him authentically – as he was – or theatrically – as we wish him to be. Compiler/performer Scott Renz, who bears a strong physical resemblance to Lincoln, chooses authenticity, and in the pleasant intimacy of the tiny Cole Studio, the effect is to make Lincoln remarkably accessible.
Regrettably, at the show I saw, Renz was a bit of a fumblemouth, struggling to remember parts of his monologue and going back to repeat himself occasionally. A second problem: he tells Lincoln’s stories and jokes at random, without any underlying narrative. He might tell a courtroom joke, and follow it up by recreating his conversation with a Congressman from Buffalo, and then tell the story of a mother who asked him to pardon her son. The net effect, in many cases, is that we have a Lincoln impersonator telling us 150-year-old jokes.
Still, this is Abraham Lincoln, brothers and sisters – a nearly unique personality who held our nation together when it suffered the worst crisis in our history. Toward the end of the show, Renz’s Lincoln casually mentions that he must leave in order to see a theatrical production – Our American Cousin, at the Ford’s Theater. He doesn’t want to go – he’s seen it already – but his wife does, and what Mary wants, Mary gets. Suddenly, and briefly, our hearts are broken, just as they were back in 1865.
- Running Time: 45 minutes
- Tickets: Abe Lincoln: A One Man Show
- Remaining Shows: Sun, July 19 at 3 . Fri, July 25 at 7 . Sat. July 26 at 8
- Where: Cole Studio, 1714 15th St NW (rear)