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Washington DC by Tracy Lyon

An American Daughter

Also see Tracy's review of Bea's Neice

American Daughter
Johanna Day and
Robert Proskey

Lyssa Dent Hughes is a modern day superwoman. She has an attentive husband, a lovely home with a prestigious address, and accomplished friends. Her father is even a U.S. Senator. Lyssa’s life takes another step toward perfection when she is nominated for the job of U.S. Surgeon General. Everything seems on track until a remark made by a close friend results in scandal for Lyssa and her family. Thus begins the drama in Arena Stage's production of An American Daughter.

Penned by Wendy Wasserstein, An American Daughter turns a distinctly unique eye on a deeply rooted American family and the people who enter their lives. Although the view is entertaining at times, it is also a bit tired. Wasserstein has presented a family that we have all seen before - a seemingly ideal unit that isn’t as flawless as it appears to be. She has added some extraneous characters to give the piece flavor, such as an African-American woman who also happens to be Jewish and an ambitious young writer who considers herself an expert on women’s issues. Although enjoyable, these characters are not enough to raise this play above mediocrity.

Despite the lackluster script, the cast gives it all they've got. Johanna Day is especially striking as Lyssa Dent Hughes. She gives a very real and honest performance that is quite impressive. As her father, Senator Alan Hughes, acclaimed actor Robert Prosky is incredibly strong. However, Gail Grate really steals the spotlight in this production. Her portrayal of Judith B. Kaufman reveals many sides to this complex character. Ms. Grate’s performance is one filled with sensitivity and depth.

The visual elements of the show work well. The set design by Bill C. Ray creates the feel of an authenticity. The hardwood floor and overstuffed couch have been seen in many a Georgetown home. The lighting by John Ambrosone works in harmony with the other elements of the piece and the costumes by Gabriel Berry are appropriate Washington garb.

Additionally, the sound design by Martin Desjardins is excellent and adds much to the production.

Artistic Director Molly Smith helms this production, providing very solid direction. She is quite adept at bringing out the best in her cast. Unfortunately, that is not enough to make this play truly compelling. However, Washingtonians may enjoy the local references as well as the greater depiction of the multifaceted city in which we live. An American Daughter runs through June 1st in the Fichlander Theatre.

Arena Stage – The Fichlander Theatre
An American Daughter
April 25th – June 1st
By Wendy Wasserstein
Directed by Molly Smith
1101 Sixth Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Ticket Information: 202-488-3300 or www.arenastage.org

Cast List

Lyssa Dent Hughes: Johanna Day
Quincy Quince: Holly Twyford
Judith B. Kaufman: Gail Grate
Walter Abrahmson: J. Fred Shiffman
Morrow McCarthy: Damon Gupton
Timber Tucker: Alex Webb
Senator Alan Hughes: Robert Prosky
Charlotte “Chubby” Hughes: Laurie Kennedy
Jimmy: Tyee Tilghman
Billy Robbins: David Fendig
Linh Myers: Tuyet Thi Pham


-- Tracy Lyon


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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