Don’t Remember History Class Being Taught Like This! Footlighters Theater Makes it Fun (for Adults) in THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA: Abridged

by Kelly Thunstrom

I didn’t really know what I was expecting when I went to Footlighters last night. I knew I was in for a strange ride when the program depicted George Washington with a black mustache, eyeglasses, and eyebrows. What I got (as I observed the people around me), was a night of highbrow jokes, lowbrow jokes, jokes that made us laugh our heads off, blank stares for jokes that fell flat, a ton of welcome audience participation, and a lot of “Did they just really say that?” moments.

The cast of Footlighters Theater's production of THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA: ABRIDGED, running through April 2 in Berwyn PA.

Directed by Roseann McGrath Brooks, produced by Tony Filipone, and featuring just three actors, THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA: Abridged covers 50,000 years in a grand total of 90 minutes. As you can imagine, it is a wild ride, with local actors Don Gimpel, Will Rompala, and Randy Weinstein going on and off stage with breakneck speed. The actors rely on accents, hats and wigs thrown on over everyday clothes, plastic vegetables, pasta, Super Soaker water guns (no matter where you sit, you might get wet), and a Bavarian Cream Pie (don’t ask) to cover some major points in history.

Beginning with Amerigo Vespucci in Act I, Will Rompala particularly showed off his ability to change accents on a dime. Surprisingly, Disney’s Nemo finds his way into this skit (I told you they use everything but the kitchen sink). A Native American skit featuring the comic style of Randy Weinstein was also very funny. To demonstrate the “shot heard round the world” (no one knows who fired it), they drew a large diagram, then had the bullet “fleeing in a White Ford Bronco”. Gimpel and Weinstein showed off their comic chops as “minutemen”, in a joke that is meant to be understood at the end. They begin by doing a parody of the “Lollipop Guild” from The Wizard of Oz. How do the two go together? Taking a line from the play, “Even in early days, America had trouble with literacy.”

One of the highlights of the show was showing rejected flags made by Betsy Ross and her sister “Diana” (oh, “stop!”). I was not a fan of the vaudeville style jokes of Lewis and Clark, although as they said “These are the best jokes of 1805.” When the planned slide show about the Civil War can’t be done (due to Weinstein breaking the projector…all part of the act), an absolutely hilarious “real” slide show follows.

Act II depicted a radio show covering many years, which really showed the talents of all three actors. They made it look easy, but I know rehearsals for that must have been intense. Rompala then came down into the audience for a question and answer session, which also featured an “appearance” by President Obama. This to me was rather odd, as Weinstein put on a strange Obama mask, did not change his voice at all, and took questions. This was one of those “blank stare” moments. Ending it all was an extended film noir segment featuring the talents of Gimpel. This is where the Bavarian Cream Pie comes in, and believe it or not, Lucy Ricardo.

This show requires impeccable timing, which the three actors, I’m sure, will only improve on with future performances. If you are looking for good fun, without the kids, The Complete History of America: Abridged is well worth your time. You might even learn something on a Saturday night!

by Adam Long, Reed Martin, & Austin Tichenor
Directed by Roseann Brooks
March 18 – April 2, 2011
Footlighters Theater
58 Main Ave
Berwyn, PA

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