Review: Can a Play Make the Constitution Great Again?

At the efficiency I noticed, Rosdely Ciprian, a preternaturally composed 14-year-old New Yorker, spoke for abolishment. (At alternate performances, the visitor debater is Thursday Williams.) Ms. Ciprian’s arguments, honed throughout a 12 months of the play’s growth, are subtle and reducing, and sometimes hilarious. But so are Ms. Schreck’s. Of course, at different performances, they may wind up arguing the reverse positions.

That they’re debating in any respect is an antidote to grimness. It’s additionally an occasion of theatrical activism at its purest, modeling the world the play hopes to attain: one wherein even first ideas are open to vigorous, orderly debate, and wherein all stakeholders, not simply highly effective ones, are invited to the podium.

After all, Ms. Schreck factors out, it will have been inconceivable for 2 ladies to argue coverage on a public stage when the Constitution was written. They couldn’t have voted till 1920. Even then, the limitations confronted by Ms. Ciprian, who’s Dominican-American, and Ms. Williams, who’s Jamaican-American, would possibly nicely have been insuperable.

Being underage, they’ll’t vote now, both; a few of the surprising pleasure of “What the Constitution Means to Me” comes from the hope that folks so sensible and passionate and prepared for change will quickly be a part of the citizens.

Joy comes too from watching an imaginative new type of theater emerge. It doesn’t come from nowhere, in fact: In some methods, “What the Constitution Means to Me” recollects Lisa Kron’s memoir play “Well,” wherein a ready speech about city decline is hijacked by a mom who begs to vary. In different methods, Ms. Schreck’s play appears to be a part of the wave of formal experimentation being led by younger black playwrights in the present day.

Linking these works is a sense of backlash and betrayal. But in the wake of tragedy, Ms. Schreck presents one thing greater than catharsis. “What the Constitution Means to Me” is considered one of the issues we at all times say we wish theater to be: an act of civic engagement. It restarts an argument many people forgot we even wanted to have.

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