Hollywood Fringe 2017
A murder farce starring the founding mothers.
On the eve of the Boston Tea Party, revolution is in the air. Colonists are demanding no taxation without representation from the British. Meanwhile on the sidelines, some soon-to-be-significant women of the revolution have their own little drama just nearby.
Martha Jefferson (playwright Corrine Mestemacher) and Deborah Reed (as in the unofficial Mrs. Ben Franklin, played by Megan Barker) watch from their window as the men of the revolution dump crates and crates of tea into Boston Harbor. Deborah even dressed herself up as a native girl hoping to participate in the occasion, but revolting against the crown is men’s work, in this case led by Sam Adams (Jaymes Lucas) who has a spot in his heart for Mrs. Jefferson, always trying to impress her and make his affections known to her despite the obvious fact that there is a Mr. Jefferson. But while the men are away, Martha Washington (Katie Stevens) gets into some trouble of her own and the women find themselves struggling to dispose of the body of a British soldier she accidentally murdered. You can’t accuse this show of false advertising.
Megan Barker gets the lion’s share of the show’s funniest bits as the naive, but well-intentioned Deborah Reed. One of the most enjoyable moments of the show is her futile protesting against the British by tossing individual teabags out the window in the background. Nothing will break her spirit. Meanwhile, Jaymes Lucas’s portrayal of Sam Adams lies somewhere between The Fonz and Pepe Le Peu as he hilariously tries to woo Mestemacher’s frustrated Martha J.
Mestemacher and Stevens do fine work as the two Marthas, but I mourned for the missed comic opportunities in regards to a personal feud between them that’s set up, but only very lightly knocked down. Additionally, Laura Lee Walsh as Southern belle Dolley Madison and Vilia Steele as Sam Adams’s buddy Barry do their best with underwritten roles. Kyle Rezzarday does angels’ work playing the title killed redcoat, being just a lifeless body for much of the show.
Director Matt Ritchey does an able job keeping the farce moving at a farce’s pace, weaving the yelps, the cover-ups, the tumbles, and stamping the show with some rewarding sight gags. Mestemacher’s script, though letting some potential comedy bits slip by, keeps the momentum building up until the final climactic moment. Normally, I’m against the trope of a play where decent people have to suddenly figure out what to do with a dead body, but it’s no trope in this case. In this world, it’s justified.
Even though the story is wholly fabricated, you feel frustrated for these women who have a moment of American glory snatched away from them by those men who hogged it all for themselves. But a little historical inaccuracy won’t prevent you from enjoying this show. ZACHARY BERNSTEIN