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  • Writer's pictureFrank Schierloh

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (Theatre Unspeakable): An Historical Miss

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The American Revolution has an intrinsic connection to the city of Philadelphia, and as a story, it has been adapted many times over with successful adaptations winning major awards throughout the years. THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, currently playing at Christ Church Neighborhood House, aims to join in the lengthy conversation of historical storytelling, but doesn’t add much new information or nuance to it.

The show’s premise is simple: seven performers are placed on a small platform with no props and basic costuming to tell this “big story in a small space.” Using devised theatre techniques, the performers quickly weave through the intricate story of the American Revolution, hitting several key moments of the war with over-the-top characterizations of the people involved in it. The cast use a series of movements to evoke scenery, animals, conflicts and monarchy, utilizing the limited space that they are given.

Do you see Washington crossing the Delaware?

The choice to contain the show to a small elevated platform in the middle of Christ Church Neighborhood House’s cavernous fourth floor felt a touch misguided. This large void of space surrounding the piece made it more difficult to connect with the performance, leaving some of the smaller, more intimate moments lost. While the lighting helps to fill some of that void, ultimately limiting the piece to such a small space does a disservice to what the show is attempting to do.

The show itself is a touring piece, originating from Chicago, and this is not the first time it has been produced in Philadelphia. However, the production currently running is filled with a majority of Philadelphia performers and technicians. The performers do their best with the material, but some of the jokes and choices feel a little dated and overdone. The show is under an hour long, and they hit all the highlights of the American Revolution, introducing all the key figures and gently suggesting that these iconic figures of American history may be a bit more gray as people than the history books might paint them out to be. If you already know a fair amount about the American Revolution, you might not learn anything new, but as a brief educational show it works to give a base level of information.

[Theatre Unspeakable, 20 N. American St.] March 28th-April 1st, 2023.


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