In today’s world of seemingly absolute, complete, no excuses accepted political correctness, even the most holy of venerated saints would have a hard time saying, doing perhaps thinking anything the least bit outre without being shouted down by some fractional segment of the PC community. For example—how do you celebrate Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month while creating an elementary school pageant? That is the task given to three “woke” white thespians and their white director in Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play currently receiving a full-bodied and red-blooded production at The Geffen Playhouse. I am sure the Native American playwright had her tongue planted firmly in her cheek as she set about to writing this biting satire on the state of today’s overly PC world. When the show begins with the cast singing “The Twelve Days of Thanksgiving”—and a pumpkin in a pumpkin patch—you know you are in for some delirious mockery.
Logan (Samantha Sloyan) is the vegan New Age director, so first off, no turkeys will be slaughtered. Logan gave up her dreams of Hollywood stardom after six frustrating weeks and now teaches drama and creates politically aware shows for her students. Her lover, Jaxon (Noah Bean), is a street performer who feels his real career is yoga, not teaching it but being it. Caden (Jeff Marlow) is a nerdy history teacher who has always wanted to be a playwright and actor. Good news—he’s cast in the show, bad news—it is to be totally improvised during rehearsals. Alicia (Alexandra Henrikson) is a young professional actress brought in thanks to a Native American grant Logan applied for and received. Only problem is Alicia is not Native American; Logan cast her online from her Native American head shot. As the first rehearsal progresses, the actors get more deeply into their characters and the action gets more frenzied and extremely un-PC. The belly laughs are loud and frequent. FastHorse really skewers both the absurdness of the entertainment business and its wannabes as well as the tsunami of well-meaning political correctness infecting our modern world. Most PC folks have no sense of humor; Fasthorse definitely does.
Michael John Garces expertly directs the ever escalating insanity while also keeping a tight rein on the madness. The result is one of the year’s biggest laughfests. The cast all fit their roles like a Native American headdress and sure-footed moccasins. Bane stands out as the man who would be yoga as does Henrikson, who brings surprising depth to what could easily have been just another airhead starlet. Sara Ryung Clement’s scenic design has provided the actors with the perfect playpen for their acting out. I’m glad I’m not on the stage crew tasked with cleaning up after this 90-minute one-act. I’m not sure elementary students would be educated by The Thanksgiving Play but they would surely be entertained and maybe even traumatized.