Opening at the still existent Ohio Theatre on Wooster Street is red-haired thomas written by Robert Lyons, founding Artistic Director of the Soho Think Tank and directed by Oliver Butler, co-Artistic Director of The Debate Society. You would think that between the two of them they could come up with a better production. At least one that made sense. Common sense. But that’s Thomas Paine. Not Thomas Jefferson (Alan Benditt). One of the characters in this mixed-up, chock full of metaphors, dreamlike play that has pretensions of being a political satire where everyone has the right to pursue happiness.
The core of the play centers around a gambling husband, Cliff (Peter Sprague) down on his luck or is he simply playing cards by rote, unwilling to take a risk as he had in the past as his Risk Management wife, Marissa (Danielle Skraastad) suggests. They have a red-haired daughter, Abby (Nicole Raphael) who thinks her dad should get a real job and stop with his sign language affection whenever they part. Most of the dialogue is taken up with whether or not Abby in entitled to receive a full fare bus pass and how close their house is to the school and whether or not Cliff can come up with enough quarters if she isn’t. Fascinated yet?
So, Cliff goes to buy a newspaper at Ifthikar’s (Danny Beiruti) news stand, where there are piles and piles and piles of newspapers (Set design: Tom Gleeson). Ifthikar is an angry foreigner whose country never is on the front page – until later on in the play when he takes Cliff as a hostage and makes a video tape, threatening to decapitate him or at the very least slit his throat. Cliff actually bought a paper to get some quarters and then asks for more quarters and there is a heated exchange about whether the customer is always right or let the buyer beware. Still with me?
Then Cliff finds a twenty dollar bill with Jefferson’s hair made red by some kind of magic marker. This bill has Cliff thinking his daughter will one day be President of the United States. Ifthikar and Cliff have another heated exchange each vying for the twenty as he also has a daughter who could one day be President. Ahha! But she has to have been born in America to be President. Shades of “where was Obama born” seep in here without actually saying it.
Danny Beiruti and Danielle Skraastad are standouts in this mediocre drama that has little humor or enlightenment to offer. Jefferson as played by Alan Benditt soaks his feet, wanders around and tries to tie everything together by telling us that Cliff and Ifthikar are his two sons – separated at birth and that each has similar problems – they are both freedom fighters and have to fight for their beliefs. As it turns out the picture on the twenty is not Jefferson. He’s on the two dollar bill. Jackson is on the twenty. That’s the history lesson for today.