Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Director Oliver Butler gives the work a deceptively naturalistic appearance, starting as Schreck describes her experience at age 15 giving speeches about the U.S. Constitution in American Legion competitions. In fact, she notes, she earned enough in prize money to pay for college.
Initially, Schreck steps back in time (in her yellow blazer and tailored jeans, designed by Michael Krass) to her teenage self, sharing her impressions of the Constitution and giving a detailed exegesis of the first part of the 14th Amendment, as a Legion official (Mike Iveson, whose facial expressions are hilarious) attempts to maintain order. The sneaky part comes when Schreck moves into the present and tells how the Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law didn't always work for the women in her family.
Probably Schreck's most trenchant observation is that the U.S. Constitution is a document of negative rightsprotecting the people from overreach by the governmentrather than positive rightswhich obligate the government to provide specific kinds of support to the public. As she shows, the protections of the 14th Amendment have not prevented legalized discrimination against ethnic and racial groups, women, LGBT populations, and disadvantaged communities. There's nothing dry about her performance. She demonstrates her family's tendency of "Greek tragedy crying" in bad situations and grounds many of her arguments in pop culture.
And that's not all. The final part of the play sets up a debate between Schreck and Rosdely Ciprian, a high school sophomore who has just turned 15. The issue: Can the Constitution be made more accountable to the American public or should it be abolished and a new one enacted? The arguments, and the resolution, vary with each performance. The 110-minute play provides a stimulating civics lesson with a lot of laughs along the way.