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June 1, 2018:

American Conspiracy reviewed by Rob Stevens

Cyanide Theatre is presenting the World Premiere of playwright Benjamin Schwartz’s one-act, American Conspiracy, at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Schwartz has set himself a difficult task—crafting a tale of two families’ hopes and despair about The American Dream with a troubled young man’s path to assassinating a President. Fran (Amy Smallman-Winston) is deeply in debt to the loan company, desperately trying to keep her small diner open so she can pass it on to her daughter Jane (Katelyn Schiller). But Jane doesn’t want the diner; she wants to leave her small town existence behind, return to college and better her life. Alan (Spencer Hayden) is desperately trying to keep his family’s oil business afloat as a Department of Energy Agent (Edward Hendershott) attempts to collect millions of dollars in back taxes. That forces Alan to seek the help of friendly loan manager Trent (David Garver) who is really a coke-sniffing CIA agent. Trent has a way out for Alan—persuade his unstable younger brother John (Hank Doughan) to eliminate the visiting President, paving the way for his replacement who will then forgive the insurmountable debt. Schwartz’s writing and Matt Ritchey’s direction stage the work as if the two stories are happening simultaneously. The overly quirky John eventually waits at the diner for a phone call from his brother to send him into assassin mode, yet Trent’s strong-arming of Alan takes place at least a week earlier. A more linear story structure and perhaps a scene between the brothers would greatly add to the impact. The cast is capable and fully inhabit their roles but another draft of the script is needed to achieve true success.


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