What the Constitution Means to Me Review – Hot, Sweaty, and Profound

Kelley Dorney as Heidi Schreck in WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME - Photo by Kayte Deioma
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Inspired by Heidi Schreck’s personal experiences while she traveled the country doing Constitutional debate competitions to earn money for college, WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME is a funny, hopeful, honest, and above all human play. To author Schreck, the Constitution is like a romance novel “…a living, warm blooded, steaming document…it is hot and sweaty.” First performed in 2017 at a festival for new plays, WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME found its way to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2018 before making it off-Broadway. In 2019, the play made its debut on Broadway, where it received Obie and New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, was nominated for a Tony Award, and was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The New York Magazine described the play as “a brilliantly crafted show, harrowing and funny and human, that accesses the political through the deeply personal.” Time Magazine named it one of the 10 best theater performances in 2019. In 2024, The International City Theatre proudly presents WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME.

Kelley Dorney, Sheila Correa, and Tom Trudgeon – Photo by Kayte Deioma

Until recently, most performances of WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME were performed by the author herself. Additionally, at the end of the performance, the audience was treated to a live debate about the Constitution pitting Schreck against a high school debate champion with the audience serving as the jury. During the current production, Schreck was played by actress Kelley Dorney; and the debater was played by actress Sheila Correa. Like the Constitution, Schreck considers the play to be a living document and continues to make adjustments as time marches on. The current script reflected those (minor) alterations.

Kelley Dorney and Tom Trudgeon – Photo by Kayte Deioma

That said, the time is 2019 (with some forays into the past mirroring Schreck’s teenaged experiences). The place is an American Legion Hall, the usual setting for those debates. The debate is carefully monitored by Legionnaire/Mike (Tom Trudgeon). Schreck’s recollections cover a collection of thought-provoking topics, including race, slavery, homosexuality, domestic violence, immigration, and the personal impact on Schreck and her family made by these and other issues. For example, Schreck’s great-great-grandmother came from Germany to Washington State in 1879 after she was purchased from a catalog in the female-starved Old West. The possibility of domestic abuse lingers, and the lady died at 38 in a mental hospital diagnosed with “melancholia.” Schreck also discussed her own abortion, as well as her fears of rape while in college. Such memories make for a fascinating study of a document through the eyes of one woman.

Kelley Dorney and Sheila Correa – Photo by Kayte Deioma

Skillfully helmed by artistic director caryn desai, WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME takes on a life of its own, often with honesty that is both hilarious and poignant. The talented cast – and especially Dorney – do an excellent job of pacing and carrying the audience along on the journey. Words and actions combine to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The production team also contributes to the overall excellence of the show. Tim Mueller’s scenic design feels right; and Donny Jackson’s lighting, Dave Mickey’s sound, and Kimberly DeShazo’s costumes set the scene with care. WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME is timely, thought-provoking, and entertaining. And, what’s more, it should prove an excellent family outing for mom, dad, and their teenaged kids.

Kelley Dorney, Tom Trudgeon, Steila Correa, Casting Director Michael Donovan, and Director caryn desai at the Talk Back after the show – Photo by Elaine L. Mura

WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME runs through May 19, 2024, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. Tickets are $49 (Fridays and Saturdays) and $52 (Sunday matinees). For information and reservations, call 562-436-4610 or go online.


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