A forensic tournament gone bad
Once again the American Heartland Theatre has taken an extremely talented cast, a highly skilled crew, and a strong director, wrapped them up in a pathetic script, and served them up to die before Kansas City audiences. The Complete Millennium Musical (Abridged) by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor is a nauseating journey through the last 1,000 years of human existence that leaves you begging for the last 100 minutes of your life back.
These words may seem harsh; however, they are the kindest words possible for this production that claims “the wit and satire of Monty Python with the song and parodies and slapstick humor of Mel Brooks.” What’s missing from that description is, ” … if Monty Python and Mel Brooks were derivative artists lacking a sense of humor.”
Never before has such a talented cast been saddled with so many rocks and lead weights on their backs and been expected to perform. It is boggling that a theater with the arsenal of the AHT would strive so hard for mediocrity. This production had the look and feel of a high school forensic tournament gone bad.
A few of the moments in the show had some quality, but this was merely a result of the cast members busting their asses to save the day. Amie Farrell, Alan Ball, and Michael Kosik fought well.
It is obvious that the AHT is capable of far better works. They have put on some wonderful productions in the past. What is disappointing is the fact that they seem all too content to keep toeing the line of schlock. A suggestion to AHT would be to look back at the formula of their past productions of Dangerous Obsessions, What the Butler Saw, or hell, even 1940s Radio Hour. These are productions that had a soul. For a farce or a door-slamming comedy to be successful, it must first contain the simple element of being character-driven. One must care about the people on stage and what they are up against. In this production all that can be felt for the characters is sympathy. It’s a tough racket to survive in, but even the circus will give a lion tamer a whip. The Heartland gives their actors raw meat taped to their bodies.
If the formula is just to get butts in the seats, then congratulations. If the formula is to keep them there for the entire show, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. The artistic vision of the AHT still exists, it just has the appearance of being taken over by a cult.