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The advance information warned that this version of The Complete History of America (abridged) was not recommended for anyone given to attacks of the vapors. But most of the capacity crowd at Stewart Theatre on this particular Saturday evening seemed to be made of stern stuff. They proved well up to the rigors of the latest NCSU Center Stage presentation by the Reduced Shakespeare Company.
The actors set the tone by entering the auditorium with a lusty and most improbable performance of "The Star Spangled Banner," using the proper wording, but comically butchering the metrics. These three players, Jerry Kernion, Jeff Marlow and Dustin Sullivan were supported by perhaps twice that many authors, supervisors, stage managers and directors. Since the "history" was presented mainly as a series of vignettes, it might be well to discuss just a small sampling of them.
Amerigo Vespucci was honored as the title character, providing short shrift to one C. Columbus. (Later, though, they unfurled a long banner with multiple prehistoric events in order to indicate the birth of John McCain!)
The American Revolution was treated in some detail. The main lesson that one absorbed, though, was that the colonists rebelled against British confiscatory taxation so that their successors could establish American confiscatory taxation. The Bill of Rights guaranteed the ability of the government to tax and spend. The Four Freedoms (speech, worship, no want and no fear) were buttressed by the freedom to carry a gun for shooting anyone who might wish to interfere.
Lewis and Clark had, of course, explored the Louisiana Purchase, returning as a fetching song and dance team. The act was replete with the inevitable bawdy references involving their lovely and competent guide, Sacajawea.
Abraham Lincoln was not neglected. Parallels between him and John Kennedy were noted, such as Lincoln's secretary named Kennedy and Kennedy's secretary named Lincoln, and the like. These familiar coincidences were augmented by alleging that Lincoln had been in Monroe, Maryland and, well, you know. There was this business about Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.
"Obama" and "McCain" came on stage for questions from the audience. Obama was at his best protesting that he was indeed "black" enough, and betraying not the slightest notion of how he was going to accomplish his grandiose promises. McCain's most memorable line was his answer to the question, boxers or briefs? "Depends...."
Numerous historical loose ends were tied up via an elaborate film noir skit featuring the famed private eye, Spade Diamond. This troupe brought their present act to Raleigh from Richmond and they are scheduled for Knoxville and numerous other venues. Those who like their entertainment in clever slapstick form, but with limited nuance and subtlety will find themselves well served.