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Pictured: Jaxon, played by Jon Patrick O’Brien, and Logan, played by Jaime Nebeker in “The Thanksgiving Play,” at the BCT now through Saturday, Dec. 16.
Pictured: Nick Jordan plays the role of Caden in “The Thanksgiving Play” at Boise Contemporary Theater.
- Brooke Burton Photography
The playbill for Boise Contemporary Theater’s newest production, “The Thanksgiving Play,” has a message on the cover that reads: “It’s Okay to Laugh.” It turns out to be an important reminder because the play is hilarious, but it’s also the kind of humor that can make you a little uncomfortable and maybe ask yourself, “Am I allowed to be laughing?” the answer is: Yes. Yes you are.
“The Thanksgiving Play” by Larissa FastHorse was the first show by a female Native American playwright to open on Broadway, debuting at the Helen Hayes Theater in New York City in April. The story follows “a troupe of terminally ‘woke’ teaching artists,” as they scramble “to create a pageant that somehow manages to celebrate both Turkey Day and Native American Heritage Month,” according to the play’s program. I’ve never seen it on Broadway, but I can’t help but feel that BCT’s production lived up to the magic of its Broadway sister.
There are only four characters, but everyone’s story is really well-developed for a 90-minute production. Each one is funny, relatable and absolutely embodied by the actors; personally, I was obsessed with Claire Blackwelder who plays Alicia, a stereotypical L.A. actor. Her character annoyed me to no end at first (which I think is appropriate for the part), but after awhile I couldn’t help but love her. She had so many one-line zingers that dumbfounded and silenced the other characters — while simultaneously making the audience, myself included, crack up. Other characters include Logan, a high school drama teacher played by Jaime Nebeker, Jaxton, a yogi/actor played by Jon Patrick O’Brien and Caden, a history nerd played by Nick Jordan.
The stage at BCT has been magnificently transformed from top to bottom into a classroom, which took me right back to my days in high school. From the water fountain to the motivational posters, the attention to detail was clear. While there aren’t any scene changes, per se, as the whole show takes place in the classroom, the space was divided up and used in enough ways that it never felt monotonous.
Also clear in the attention to detail were the show’s transition scenes; each transition featured an “offensive (but 100% real) Thanksgiving song,” that plays on the “classroom’s” projector. I loved the addition of these songs because, as terrible as they are, many of them are still the top Google results after searching “Thanksgiving songs,” which highlights, to me, just how far we still have to go.
Beyond the story itself, which I won’t go into here because I don’t want to spoil your performance experience, one of my favorite parts of “The Thanksgiving Play” was the feeling of inclusiveness; the entire theater, and all of us in it, seemed to be pulled into the production. In fact, at one point I had to move my feet so that one of the actors could retrieve a runaway prop — the actor handled it with grace and I walked away feeling like I had a part in the play.
Final takeaway: This satirical play is a wonderful critique of “woke” culture that you won’t want to miss.
“The Thanksgiving Play” is showing at Boise Contemporary Theater in downtown Boise now through Saturday, Dec. 16. Tickets range from $32 to $45; student tickets are $15. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 208-331-9224 or by going online to bctheater.ludus.com.