- Uncle Tom, Uncle Sam, Uncle Ben, and the Rest
Reviewed by Miranda HallUncle Sam is dead. Guided by the urging of a Fellow American, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s protagonist Uncle Tom, pancake matriarch Aunt Jemima,
- and instant-rice progenitor Uncle Ben assemble to mourn patriotism and the American identity. But after one painstakingly overblown rendition of “America the Beautiful,” the troupe casts its red, white, and blue shrouds aside to plummet into a pancake-rice showdown. Outraged, a zombie Uncle Sam reads the Declaration of Independence with a bovine stoicism, then quick audio clips from John McCain and Barak Obama play in a blackout, and the actors bow. The audience claps tentatively.Actor Lee Marvin Sebastiany pitches a physically compelling Uncle Tom whose perambulatory jolt is as jerky as a cruise with a stick shift novice. Slowness suits the senile when they exert as much effort to move as Mr. Sebastiany. Never does his performance lack energy or waver from its stylization, though his garbled dialect and tedious delivery disappoint.
He is a novelty, though, in the midst of his ensemble. Levon Fickling as Uncle Ben approaches dynamism, but flounders with his poor sense of timing. Emily Allen’s Jemima and Josh Hunt’s My Fellow American concentrate too exclusively on their personal proclivities for entertaining instead of their abilities to construct convincing characters. Though she attacks with lavish flourishes, Ms. Allen’s performance proves that the objective “to pretend to be sad” is a shallow substitute for the truer “to mourn.” George Trahanis read from a script.
What is most disappointing, however, is that though the actors comment frequently on their own performances, they fail to disclose any cultural significance that their characters might have accrued. The script stands a chance as ten-minute farce, but this hour-long rendition simply tries to kill time. An unexpected rendition of the song “I want you to want me,” an actor planted in the audience, and an invitation for the select audience members with “Iron Chef Capital Fringe” written on their programs to taste test in the cook-off give the play spunk. The play’s dead time, however, overrides its best efforts at vitality.
Running time: 60 minutes
- Tickets: Uncle Tom, Uncle Sam, Uncle Ben, and the Rest
- Remaining Shows: Sat, July 26 at 8:30 . Sun, July 27 at 3
- Where: Universalist National Memorial Church, 1810 16th Street, NW
A fringe show shouldn’t play it safe. It seems some people went in with expectations of what they wanted or hoped the show would be. Mistake. The show was so original that you were bound to love it or hate it. What an imagination! My husband and I sought out those behind this captivating show. We were pointed to the playwright/director and he stood there post-show to answer any questions and engage us. Loved it.
This is the type of theater that Washington DC is missing. Smart, bold and over the top. I think the reviewer completely missed the point on view…unfortunately.
Yeah – I was hoping for some look at the cultural significance of corporate branding of african-american “uncles” and “aunts” vs. the patriotic government “white” uncle sam. Alas, I got a food fight instead.