Monday, March 11, 2019

"American Hero" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

Bess Wohl's "American Hero" gives us belly laughs as well as a kick in the pants about what Corporate America does to the minimum wage people it employs and then discards. We love each actor in the four-person ensemble and Allie Moss's direction feels flawless.

The setting is a sandwich shop in a mall. We see three employees being tutored by their boss on how to make the sandwiches the Brand envisions. Paul Stout is Ted, the MBA who has been downsized into this sandwich shop. He still feels if he works hard enough he can rise again into management. Earth to Ted: find a different mall.

Devon DeGroot is exhausted. She works two fast-food shifts at different shops in the mall, one after the other. She seems dim at first, but she's just sleep-derived. Laura Espino's wisecracking Jamie gives us laugh after laugh, though as the show goes on we see she is as desperate as the others to stay employed. David Boyll is Bob, the boss, who clearly knows nothing except what he is reading in the employee manual. Dark times are ahead for everyone.

We love them all. After Bob has disappeared for a week, and they stop receiving any new deliveries of food, and calls to the Regional Office are not returned, it becomes obvious to the three workers that they have been abandoned. But they have pride in what they do and they really need their salaries. So they plot to keep the shop open. The whole idea is so preposterous it isn't preposterous at all, and we are pulling hard for them all the way.

We laughed along with Wohl's terrific dialogue, but afterwards, when we read about the real-life incident that sparked this show, which involved a suicide of the overwrought manager of a Quiznos sandwich shop in Southern California, Wohl's story took a deeper, more insidious turn for us. We wonder if she couldn't somehow involve this more serious story into Bob's disappearance? Any laughs there? Maybe not.

Well crafted and performed, we once again leave a Custom Made Theater show feeling happy. Nobody died. Well, maybe Bob. Unsure.


The San Francisco Theater Blog loved Bess Wohl's "American Hero," though it made us very hungry. We suggest Prime Rib Combos for each audience member. Short of that, we still award Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise to this tasty Custom Made show. Writing, performing and direction earn one Star each and the BANGLE is for the way the cast slapped out those sandwiches in twenty seconds. And don't forget the show's last line. Please don't answer that phone.

"American Hero"
Custom Made Theatre
533 Sutter Street, San Francisco
Through April 6
$30 (Dynamic Pricing)

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