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Heidi Schreck's "What the Constitution Means to Me" at the Helen Hayes Theatre
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Heidi Schreck's "What the Constitution Means to Me" at the Helen Hayes Theatre

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Dianna DiMenna, Aaron Glick, Matt Ross
et al.
What the Constitution Means to Me
(Show Website)

By Heidi Schreck
Directed by Oliver Butler

Heidi Schreck

Rosdely Ciprian and Mike Iveson

The Helen Hayes Theatre
240 West 44th Street

Scenic Design: Rachel Hauck
Costume Design: Michael Krass
Lighting Design: Jen Schreiver
Sound Design: Sinan Refik Zafar
Dramaturg: Sarah Lunnie
Casting: Taylor Williams
Press Representative: Matt Ross Public Relations
Production Stage Manager: Arabella Powell
Production Management: Bethany Weinstein Stewart
Advertising/Marketing: Serino Coyne
General Management: 321 Theatrical Management

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 4, 2019

Having reviewed Heidi Schreck twice in previous years, in Circle Mirror Transformation and The Madrid, her new essentially one-woman play, What the Constitution Means to Me at the Helen Hayes Theater, seems to be an outgrowth of the thoughtful, esoteric, conversation catalysts in which she formerly appeared. This new production, that debuted at New York Theatre Workshop, is a cri de guerre for women, to protect their personal rights, including reproductive rights, domestic rights, and protective rights. I can now analyze the Constitution (I have a blue-covered copy, thanks to Ms. Schreck, as the audience received these gifts along with their programs, thanks to the ACLU). But, amazingly, Ms. Schreck has already analyzed the Constitution, and that’s her monologue/dialogue.

On stage with Ms. Schreck is Mike Iveson, actor, as a moderator at a debate at an American Legion Hall in Wisconsin, alluding to Ms. Schreck’s high school debating success, with prize money paying for her state college education. Toward the end of the one-act play, the theater lights brighten for audience involvement, as well as a debate between Ms. Schreck and a bright, young rising actor, Rosdely Ciprian, about 15 years old. Her stage presence and mastery of the complicated content, relating to US Constitutional law, were stunningly impressive.

Oliver Butler, Director, could have guided Ms. Schreck into a more organized, thematical delivery, as much of the play, although presented with heartfelt personal family dramas and impassioned opinions and pleas for women to help elect politicians who can effect change for women’s rights, was spoken as if in a college lecture hall. An Off-Broadway setting, preferably one in the round, or a black box theater, would lend itself to comfortable audience interaction, and, at a minimum, stronger absorption of the rapid-fire legal and social dilemmas facing Ms. Schreck in her college years, facing her grandmother decades ago, and facing all of us today.

We were told about a sex encounter in a car, in which Ms. Schreck felt helpless to resist and was terrified of a pregnancy. We were told of her grandmother’s years of horrible domestic abuse. Ironically, Ms. Schreck’s play, with her attention to women’s reproductive rights including abortion, over men’s political decisions that rob girls and women of choice and safety, is being staged in a year that is seeing incremental victories in southern states that seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. This law has only been in existence for 46 years, and with shifting electoral districts and political clout, what has been taken for granted could quickly disappear.

Rachel Hauck’s meaningful set, of an American Legion Hall, with dozens of framed photos of white men’s faces, seeks to replicate such halls in which Ms. Schreck debated for her college tuition. The furniture is spartan, and the ambiance dreary. I personally remember winning a Rotary Club award for an essay in high school and accepted the award in such a hall. How many of these halls in towns today have an equal number of women’s photos and registered female members? Is there racial diversity now as well? That might make a great follow-up play for Ms. Schreck to research and mount next. Michael Krass’ costume design is streetwear, with some accessories for the setting, while Jen Schriever’s lighting and Sinan Refik Zafar’s sound design work extremely well. Kudos to Heidi Schreck.

Heidi Schreck in
"What the Constitution Means to Me"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Rosdely Ciprian, Heidi Schreck,
and Mike Iveson in
"What the Constitution Means to Me"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

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