"The Complete History of America (Abridged)" now at The Spot

Play pokes fun at America's past, but doesn't get to more recent events

Special to The TribuneOctober 10, 2013 

Three wild and crazy guys race through the highs and (mostly) lows of about 600 years in “The Complete History of America (Abridged)” at The Spot in Arroyo Grande.

The script by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor is laced with corny jokes, bad puns and plays on words, delivered in a fast-paced style illustrated with frenetic costume changes and bad wigs. It’s all satirical and pretty cynical slapstick.

Jake Liam McGuire directs Jared Dawson, Tim Seawell and Jorge Manly Gil, who are obviously having a lot of fun as they teach the audience their twisted lesson about our country. They don’t begin with Columbus, but with his contemporary Amerigo Vespucci, the explorer and map maker for whom America was named.

They whiz through Columbus, American Indians and Puritans, put on curly white wigs as Jefferson and Washington and slow down a tad to don coonskin caps for a soft shoe Vaudeville number by Lewis and Clark.

As the three actors cavort, they interact with each other in their own personalities as well as assuming myriad characters of both genders. In one comic bit they take on iconic still poses in a “slide show” of Civil War soldiers. In another they are soldiers who put on bras to distract the enemy. A scene with Ronald Reagan and Nancy features a comical Nancy mask.

The three actors go through two world wars, Nixon, four assassinations, the moon landing, the Cold War, Korea and Vietnam. The script often includes passing references to contemporary history, with mentions of folks such as Timothy Leary and Alan Alda slipping by in the dialogue.

The trouble with the rap-style race through history is that it often goes too fast, with the actor nearly tripping over his tongue, and some of the jokes (and laughs) are missed. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, because some of the jokes and puns would bring groans instead of laughs. But that’s part of the shtick.     

Recurring characters are The Conspirator, who tries to tie together some events, like the assassinations of Lincoln and JFK, and Uncle Sam in a Seuss-style red, white and blue hat, who speaks in rhymes. The final skit is a film noir bit featuring Spade Diamond and Lucy Ricardo.

The set is simple, with the backdrop of an American flag and a large drawing of a timeline of U.S. history. Props and costumes are hastily added for each bit.

The cynical flavor of the show is acknowledged at the end, as it’s suggested how things might be if events had gone differently. The show was written in 1992, so it’s really not a “complete” history of America. Things aren’t getting any better, and what has happened since then — Clinton, Bush, the Gulf wars and now the government shutdown — might be even more fun to spoof.

IF YOU GO

"The Complete History of America (Abridged)"
8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 20 (no show Oct. 13)
The Spot, 116 W. Branch St., Arroyo Grande
$15 to $20
474-5711 or www.thespotag.com.

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