The Huntington’s latest performance turns the ornate Emerson Cutler Majestic theatre into a small town VFW hall. This essentially one woman show takes the audience on a unique journey through the country, the country’s history and back to the present in a roundabout but very entertaining way. What The Constitution Means to Me opened on Broadway in 2019 and debuted in Boston on February 22nd 2022.
While I did participate in Model UN in high school, I had never seen a debate club in action, nor did I know anything about VFW speech and debate Scholarship Competitions, and now I’m kind of fascinated by the whole thing. Cassie Beck plays Heidi, a former debate champion who spent a good part of her childhood on this VFW Scholarship contest circuit. The character, Heidi, is playwright Heidi Schreck’s partially autobiographical focus of the show. Cassie Beck as Heidi shares the stage with The United States Constitution and Gabriel Marin who plays a Legionnaire, moderator and judge of the contest. The show culminates with a debate adding the audience in as participants and judges.
Unlike the constitution, What The Constitution Means to Me is quite easy to follow without feeling at all like a history lecture but the show is enlightening with references to a document that we should all probably pay a little more attention to. Beck, as Heidi, takes you on a journey back to her 15 year old life jumping the time line through her family history to present day and tossing the audience soundbites from the Supreme Court and facts about the constitution and our current lives.
While the world around us seems to be going to “h” “e” double hockey sticks in an artisan hand basket, it is both refreshing and scary focusing in on a few key parts of this American foundational document. It is very hard to watch history keep repeating itself without seeing much progress. There is some hopefulness that the play leaves us with however, between holding back tears of sadness and frustration there were plenty of laughs and cheers from the audience.
The introduction of a young actress who is further from my age and closer to the main character’s age when she was living her Constitution-loving debate contest dreams, was a brilliant way to end the show. Not only was the audience engaged in a whole new way (we were threatened/promised that an audience member would be recruited to judge the final debate), but it helped me realise that while we may be handing the next generations a mess of a world, they have experiences, knowledge, hope and the desire to make things better.
What The Constitution Means to Me plays at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston from February 22 – March 20, 2022
Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes, no intermission. Tickets can be purchased here.