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“The Way West” is a darkly comedic play by Mona Mansour about the dark side of the American dream. This performance was directed by Caroline Wood and was put on by the Fordham Theatre Company (Theatre). The play revolves around a mother, her young daughter, and her older sister. The mother is declaring bankruptcy, and as her life falls apart, she tells stories of her life and discusses the meaning of the American dream in the modern context with allusions to the Oregon Trail journey that pilgrims undertook centuries ago. This review will examine the production of the play, its acting, decorations, lights, direction and other theatrical elements, as well as its themes.
The production by the Fordham Theatre Company was relatively sparse. The set presented a view into a living room of an ordinary American family, with a drab couch taking center stage. The decorations reflected the state of the characters’ lives, as previously pristine furniture was presented in disarray, with loose paper and presumably bills thrown everywhere on stage. The characters were dressed modestly; with clothes that created an atmosphere of casual home life, with small pieces of flare that suggest previous luxury. Some decorations were designed to evoke the journey on the Oregon Trail, and the purple haze that resembles sunsets and sunrises associated with this journey. The purple lights, coupled with thematically appropriate background helped create an atmosphere much different from the domestic portion of the play (“Join Us”).
The actors performed admirably, especially the character of Mom was presented in a slightly demented manner that hints at the unstable nature of her character being put under pressure in the economically difficult time in her life. The daughter characters were portrayed well, but nothing out of the ordinary. The play overall was directed in a professional manner, and no element felt out of place in it.
The themes of the play are very clear, from its characters to its title. The first theme of the play is debt and how it is affecting the American public. Despite the constant call for entrepreneurial spirit, and self-sufficiency in America, in reality, debt is entrenched in the lives of the majority of the country’s population (Martin; Tomlinson). One of the more prescient lines comes from one of the daughters when it is revealed that she spent $3,500 on reselling face cream online. When confronted, Meesh only says: “You were already doing the bankruptcy thing, anyway.” The play is comedic in nature, but this line reflects the way that many people and organizations deal with debt and bankruptcy.
The second theme of the play is the falsehood of blindly following the American dream. Mother’s stories about the trail juxtapose the situation of their family and the difficulties that the Oregon Trail journey brought for people. An innumerable number of people died on the trail, never reaching their destination. Some stopped midway because supplies ran out, while others were eaten by wolves (Schaap; Life and Death). They never reached the American dream, and neither do the characters of the play.
The play reflects the state of the country in the modern era. Debt and blind following of the American dream has brought great suffering to many people. Perhaps in the future, this issue will be less common.
“Join Us.” Fordham Newsroom, 2017, Web.
Life and Death. 2017, Web.
Martin, Emmie. Shoppers Are Still Paying off Debt from 2016 Holidays. 2017, Web.
Schaap, James C. The Bloody Benders. 2017, Web.
Theatre. 2017, Web.
Tomlinson, Chris. “Americans Waiting on a Raise, Run up Debt.” Houston Chronicle. 2017, Web.