**** Recommended **** TimeLine Theatre is well known for selecting thoughtful, intelligent and well-researched plays about real people, real history. What the Constitution Means to Me is an excellent fit. This play really is about the Constitution, at least playwright Heidi Schreck’s interpretation of that document which is an important part of our American system. I doubt if many people have actually read it, she did. Beth Lacke, who plays Schreck, has a warm and humorous touch. I learned a few things – you will too. 3 ½ Spotlights
As a 15-year-old, Heidi Schreck entered a Constitutional debate/scholarship contest at the American Legion Hall in her home town, Wenatchee, Washington. After she won that contest, she and her parents traveled to other Legion Halls to compete in more scholarship contests, actually winning enough scholarship money to pay her way through college. Truth be told, I’m kind of jealous of Schreck – when I won my school’s Legion award, I got a medal, not a scholarship!
When Schreck decided to take a look at that speech and maybe retool it, she found out that her mother had thrown it out. So, she decided to see if she could recreate it. That effort became What the Constitution Means to Me.
As young Heidi Schreck eagerly awaits her turn to speak, a Legionnaire (Raymond Fox), explained the rules. Standing on a set that she said was a replica of the Legion Hall in Wenatchee, WA, Apple Capital of the World, Schreck (Lacke) became her 15-year-old self, and gave her impassioned speech.
Although she used personal familial examples from time to time, Schreck stayed on point until she got on the subject of domestic violence. She went off on a tangent to explain how the dearth of women in town led a wealthy businessman to import ‘brides’. Apparently her great-grandmother was one of those brides. Of course, women had no rights and wives were possession, so husbands could beat them without repercussions. Her grandmother too was a victim of domestic violence.
Citing case after case of the courts failing victims, Schreck became her adult self, taking the speech in a new, personal and very feminist direction. Eventually, the actress shook off her Schreck persona, and became herself on stage and Fox took off the Legionnaire hat and became himself. At this point, I think the story line went completely off the rails.
The play ends with a debate between Lacke and an 18-year-old high school student on whether we should keep or throw out the Constitution. The Debater is played by Sophie Ackerman and Makalah Simpson.
By the way, in another life, I think I knew that Legionnaire. In fact, I might have poked fun at him for taking himself so seriously. He was abrupt, condescending, a little bored at times, rigid in his interpretation of the rules and totally shocked when Schreck’s speech went in that feminist direction.
What the Constitution Means to Me was nominated for Tony® Awards for Best Play and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play. It was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
By the way, everyone leaves the theater with a copy of the Constitution!
Note: Masks are encouraged but not required in the theater.
What the Constitution Means to Me runs through July 2nd at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Avenue, Chicago. Parking apps are your best bet for parking in this busy neighborhood. Running time is one hour, 40 minutes, no intermission.
Performances are Wednesdays (May 24th, June 7th & 21st only) and Thursdays at 7:30 pm; Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 4:00 and 8:00 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm; except there will be no performance on June 25th. There will be additional Thursday matinees on June 1st, 15th, 22nd and 29th at 2:00 pm.
Accessible performances: Distanced Performances, Sunday, May 28th and Wednesday, June 7th; Open-captioned Performances, Friday, June 16th at 8:00 and Saturday, June 17th at 4:00 pm; Audio-described Performances, Thursday, June 22nd.
Tickets range from $47-$62. As a member of TCG’s Blue Star Theatre Program, TimeLine offers $25 tickets to U.S. military personnel, veterans, first responders and their spouses and family. FYI (773) 281-8463 x6 or www.timelinetheatre.com.