BY PENNY WEBB
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
April 9, 2014
Depressed about the state of our government? Think Congress is a bunch of lazy do-nothings?
Then go see “1776” at the Whidbey Playhouse in Oak Harbor. It will make you feel hopeful about America and make you laugh and cry along the way.
This raucous, bawdy romp of a musical takes the audience inside the Second Continental Congress in 1776 when our nation was born. Like any birth, it wasn’t easy, and the play—though full of silly innuendo and the sort of good ol’ boy back slapping and stabbing we would expect from Congress—also tells the serious tale of our revolution. Daily dispatches from General Washington grow grimmer and grimmer as the founders fight and squabble over whether they should even write the Declaration of Independence.
A group of Congressmen, led by the “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams (played with gusto by Fernando Duran) pushes for independence from Britain. Benjamin Franklin (played as a lovable scoundrel by the grandfatherly Ralph Dubois) serves as a moderate voice of reason, while the reserved and contemplative Thomas Jefferson (the affable Jerry Wible) gets saddled with the unwanted task of writing the Declaration—when he’d much rather be back home in Virginia with his new bride.
The South, loyal to King George, drags its collective feet, while New Jersey’s delegates don’t even show up and New York repeatedly abstains from taking sides. Bickering and balderdash continue.
At this point in the performance, an audience member was heard to say, “Well, Congress hasn’t changed much!” A great deal of laughter ensued.
Then a soldier (Tyler Booher) returns from the front and sings the haunting ballad “Momma Look Sharp.” The song, a soldier’s lament, asks for his mother to find his body on the battlefield. There was not a dry eye in the house.
Director Gaye Litka coaxes many stand-out performances from the large ensemble cast, including Douglas Langrock as the smarmy South Carolina delegate Edward Rutledge, Jim Castaneda as the arrogant and hilarious Virginian Richard Henry Lee and Kevin Wm. Meyer as the villainous John Dickinson from Pennsylvania.
Also of particular note are Candice Baker’s lovely vocals in the role of Abigail Adams.
Eventually, as the war rages on, the men squabble over the details and find compromise—something our current Congress could take a lesson from.
“1776” runs through April 27with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. Reserved seats are available by calling 360-679-2237. For more information: Whidbey Playhouse.
Penny Webb is a writer, musician and mom. She is currently working as Fund Development Director for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts and reuniting with her mommy punk band, The Kegels.
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