TR Robertson ….The second play in New Village Arts 17th Season will have you laughing at the strangest circumstances while you ponder the dilemna three very contrasting characters find themselves in as they deal with a bizarre set of work related events. “American Hero”, by playwright Bess Wohl, takes the audience into the fast food sandwich world of corporate America to experience the opening of a mall sandwich shop, interviews of potential employees, a grand opening and then a set of very peculiar and mysterious occurrences that will leave you guessing about the outcome.
Bess Wohl’s plays have been produced at theatres throughout the country. She also writes for television and film and has written a musical nominated for the Lucille Lortel award for Outstanding Musical. The NVA production is directed by Kristianne Kurner, NVA’s Executive Artistic Director. Kurner’s creative team included Sound Designer Melanie Chen Cole, Scenic Designer Kristen Flores, Properties Designer Cassie Langan, Lighting Designer Christopher Renda, Choreographer Nadia Guevara, Costume Designer Shaun Tuazon and Stage Manager Kymberli Skye.
Photos by Daren Scott
The dark comedy begins with Kamel Haddad, as toasted submarine sandwich shop owner Bob, carefully going over the large corporate manual, planning out what he needs to know for hiring personnel and opening his fast food shop. Haddad, making his NVA debut, will also play other characters in the play and for each one he brings a unique interpretation to the role. For shop owner Bob, he is a Mid-Eastern owner, later on he will be a disgruntled customer and then a disenchanted corporate man. Bob uses the corporate manual to interview his first employee candidate, Sheri, and to go over the incredibly complicated rules for the sandwich shop. Some of the rules center on the length of the onions for each sandwich or the width of the tomatoes to be used not to mention the different types of tuna sandwiches to be made of the 25 varieties of cheese available. Sheri is played by Cecilia Harchegani, also making her NVA debut. She plays an introverted, hardworking teen who wants to follow the rules with little effort. She seems to have a hard time understanding the specifics of what to say to customers when they first come into the shop. Sheri will play a major role later in the success or failure of the sandwich shop when everything seems to be going as badly as they possibly can go.
Next on the interview list will be Ted, played by Dallas McLaughlin, a NVA veteran. Ted was recently fired from his corporate position with the Bank of America for a questionable harassment issue, we find this out later in the play. He is a by the book individual, wanting to tow the corporate line, taking lots of notes, and giving into temptation with a co-worker, later in the play. McLaughlin is very convincing as the mild mannered, fish out of water sandwich artist. This co-worker is the sexy Jamie, an unemployed worker, trying make ends meet and support her three children. Jamie is played by veteran actress Wendy Waddell who has performed on numerous regional stages as well as four NVA productions. Jamie is a “tell it like it is” – “in your face lady”, a bit foul mouthed, F*** being a favorite expressive word and she is willing to bend the rules of the sandwich shop as she sees fit.
This cast of mixed-matched characters fits perfectly into the bizarre world of the sandwich shop. One very funny scene involves Bob timing the three workers as they strive to complete the perfect sandwich in 22 seconds. At one point, the scene turns to slow motion, with “Chariots of Fire” in the background, as they finally pull off a 19 second sandwich. Once the problems of the sandwich shop begin to surface, the three workers come up with an unusual series of ways to deal with the problem, until, believe it or not, the food begins to run out, then things get very interesting for the three workers – and then corporate steps in.
If you want to impose themes on this play and the satire that surfaces, there are many you can choose from. Dealing with corporate hierarchy and their lack of recognizing the “little guy”, risk taking and its consequences, relationships and their consequences, creativity in the work place, teamwork and the list can go on. Whatever theme you want to choose, this is a funny play with many twists and turns. You will find yourself rooting for these three misfits to somehow make their strange situation work-out.
The play is 90 minutes long with no intermission and there is language and a sexual situation in the play that would put it at a PG or PG-17 level, if you’re looking for a rating. Trust me, it is funny regardless. The play runs until October 15th. Tickets are $33-$36, with some discounts available. Tickets can be purchased at www.newvillagearts.org or call 760-433-3245. NVA is located at 2787 State Street in Carlsbad. Next up for NVA will be “The Secret Garden” beginning on November 10th.