By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Bland (Arjun Kumar) is torn between his loyalty to his friend and his loyalty to his country when he discovers Major John André (Harry J. Hawkins, IV) is to hang for his crimes against the nation in William Dunlap’s “André”
Bland pleads for the major’s life. First to M’Donald (Brett Sullivan Santry) and then all the way up the chain of command to the General (Michael Barnett).
Side note: Though he’s never called by name in the play, Dunlap’s General is General George Washington – one of three real people in this fictionalized version of the historical events.
Later, Bland learns from his mother, Mrs. Bland (France Chao), that the British are holding his father and plan to execute him in retaliation for the murder of Major John André.
André is ready to accept his fate until the love of his life, Honora (Marisa Postava), comes to the Colonies to say goodbye.
The play was first performed on March 30, 1798. Only a few years after the real Major John André, a British officer, was hanged as a spy during the American Revolutionary War for assisting Benedict Arnold’s attempted surrender of the fort at West Point to the British.
The playwright, William Dunlap attempted to mimic William Shakespeare with lyrical verses, but Dunlap is no Shakespeare. The language here is flat and the story is melodramatic. A character actually proclaims, “Curses!” and raises her fist skyward. While that may have been a common lament in 1798, it appears laughable in 2019.
“André” falls into a trap. Seward (Elena Falgione) tells the audience at the very beginning of the play the events, and they unfold exactly as she says they will. Holy Haley Joel Osmet! Just like Cole Sear told Dr. Malcolm Crowe in “The Sixth Sense,” “You need to put some twists in it.” We need a plot twist or two to remain engaged and we never get one.
There are some fine performances by Sullivan Santry and Barnett, but they are saddled with some clunky dialogue.
Postava’s Honora doesn’t show up until the second act, but she shines when appears on stage. She and Hawkins, IV do a great job conveying the most emotionally intense scene in the play.
Costume Designer Alex Righetti does a great job with the colonial costumes.
Throughline Theatre’s tenth season is themed “Staging the Nation,” and Artistic Director Sarah McPartland starts it off with a play about the blood shed forging our nation. If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to make the trek to Upper Lawrenceville to see this rarely-performed classic. Everyone else who wants to see an great play about early America, may want to wait until “Hamilton”comes back to town.
You can find “André” at Aftershock Theatre, 115 57th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201. For more information, click here.