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The Thanksgiving Play

A NIGHT OF LAUGHTER AND SATIRE, A PLAY BY LARISSA FASTHORSE  

Partner Content Boise Contemporary Theater

Article by Denise Llorente

Photography by Provided

Get ready for a night of laughter and satire this holiday season as Boise Contemporary Theater (BCT) presents "The Thanksgiving Play" by Larissa FastHorse. Following her groundbreaking success on Broadway, FastHorse's hilarious and thought-provoking production comes to BCT with previews starting on Wednesday, November 29, and shows running through Saturday, December 16, 2023.

The Thanksgiving Play

In Larissa FastHorse's uproarious satire, well-meaning intentions clash head-on with comically absurd assumptions. The narrative unfolds as a group of relentlessly "woke" teaching artists finds themselves in a comedic scramble. Tasked with creating a pageant that navigates the delicate balance between celebrating Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month, the troupe's efforts become a hilarious exploration of cultural sensitivity and political correctness. FastHorse masterfully weaves wit and satire into the storyline, shedding light on the complexities of these well-intentioned endeavors while offering a side-splitting commentary on the challenges of addressing historical and cultural themes in a modern, socially conscious context.

It delves into the complexities of political correctness, cultural sensitivity, and social awareness as a group of teaching artists endeavors to craft a Thanksgiving pageant. The characters grapple with the challenges of portraying historical events and cultural heritage while addressing contemporary issues. Praised for its humor and sharp commentary, the play sheds light on the well-intentioned yet often misguided attempts to navigate sensitive topics.

Synopsis:

In the face of a petition that jeopardizes her career, Logan, a high school drama teacher, embarks on a daring initiative to salvage her professional standing. Armed with a variety of grants, she forms a unique ensemble, bringing together yoga instructor (and boyfriend) Jaxton, elementary teacher Caden, and professional actress Alicia. Their collective mission is to craft a culturally sensitive play that navigates the intricate landscapes of the first Thanksgiving, Native American Heritage Month, or simply the month of November. Despite their genuine intentions, a comedic twist arises as the entire cast comprises white performers, infusing Larissa FastHorse's "The Thanksgiving Play" with an additional layer of humor. As the narrative unfolds, the play serves as a side-splitting satire, delving into the realms of political correctness, social wokeness, and cultural assumptions. The humor is further underscored by the incorporation of authentic and occasionally offensive Thanksgiving songs sourced from educators' social media channels. FastHorse skillfully weaves together a compelling exploration of these themes, creating a thought-provoking yet entertaining commentary on the challenges of addressing cultural and historical subjects in a modern context.

Reviews:

In Jesse Green's (Jesse Green, a theater critic and chief theater critic for The New York Times) insightful review of "The Thanksgiving Play" by Larissa FastHorse, the play is characterized not just as a farce but as a comedic vehicle for a deeper exploration of societal issues. While the farcical elements manifest in the hilarious misadventures of well-meaning characters attempting to create a culturally sensitive holiday pageant, Green underscores that Larissa FastHorse doesn't employ farce merely for laughs. Instead, it becomes the clever envelope through which she delivers a poignant satire on mythmaking and, in a broader sense, the world of theater itself.

The review delves into the characters, particularly Logan and Jaxton, portraying them as not just ridiculous figures but recognizable ones. Their proficiency in the language of progressivism and the comedic twists of their endeavors make them simultaneously endearing and laughable. Green appreciates how FastHorse, through her characters like Alicia, skillfully navigates the tension between identity and the performance of identity, ultimately elevating it to a paradox.

A significant aspect of the review is the play's exploration of well-meaning intentions and the potential harm they can cause. The characters, driven by good intentions, find themselves entangled in a moral microscope, leading to thought-provoking and uncomfortable moments. The unsettling undertow of erasure and racist mythologizing is conveyed through filmed segments, adding a layer of gravity to the play's commentary.

While the review acknowledges moments of exaggeration and satire that may distance the characters emotionally, it appreciates the broader project of "The Thanksgiving Play." The play, in line with Tracy Letts's "The Minutes," seeks to reveal hidden truths in civic pageantry and prompt reflection on how new information might reshape future narratives. In conclusion, the review sees Larissa FastHorse's play not merely as a critique of American history but as a compelling exploration of the potential for change in storytelling, with the hope that the first step involves diversifying the storytellers, as exemplified by FastHorse being the first Native American woman to have a play produced on Broadway.

bctheater.org

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