After seeing "Hamilton" last year, I researched the American Revolution and found the story of General Tadeusz Kosciuszko who, while not featured in "Hamilton," led a life worthy of his own stage adaptation. "Ameryka", written and directed by Nancy Keystone, does just that—and more, so much more.
Originally produced by the Critical Mass Performance Group and brought back by the Center Theatre Group for their annual Block Party, "Ameryka" is a crash course on Polish and American history, bound together by civil rights struggles and a hopeful idealization of each other's nations. The play remarkably includes not only the "white saviors"—a flaw common to works depicting early US history—but people of color speaking up for themselves, and Black people helping one another. Inspired by the 1989 Solidarność (Solidarity) poster for Poland's first free elections, the play kaleidoscopes over two centuries, driven by a remarkable lie: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
The entire cast is incredible, always in synchrony, like a well-oiled machine. They transition seamlessly between roles, from The House Un-American Activities Committee to Polish protestors in a matter of seconds. In fact, the whole production is one graceful movement.
This flow between nations and decades could not happen without exemplar technical production. Featuring a plethora of sounds, from original music to Ronald Reagan speeches, the sound design (Randall Robert Tico) is a revolution in itself, thoroughly capturing the essence and tension of each moment in history. The lighting design (Adam J. Frank) is its own spectacle, with tangibly meticulous choreography in its shadows and a precision that features the best of what both film and theatre can offer.
This remarkable show's only flaw is that it might be too ambitious, and in trying to cover so much in its two and a half hours, bites off a little more than it can chew. Because of that, a few scenes feel a tad disconnected, blurring an otherwise clear timeline. Perhaps this ambition is necessary, however, in order to have all voices heard, especially in a play about silenced peoples.
As Block Party brings LA theatre companies together and amplifies their voices, "Ameryka" connects the personal and the political in an epic ride of fervor that will leave you breathless and wishing you had paid more attention in your history classes.
"Ameryka" runs through April 29, with performances on Tuesdays through Fridays at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA). Tickets start at $25. For more information, visit https://www.centertheatregroup.org/tickets/kirk-douglas-theatre/2017-18-season/block-party/