By Joanna Brady
MARCH 28, 2017

Link to Review

Theater Review / Camping with Henry and Tom Is both hilarious and thought-provoking

By Joanna Brady

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No matter whom you voted for last November, you’ll find laughs and food for thought in Camping with Henry and Tom, a satirical comedy on at the Red Barn Tuesdays through Saturdays until April 15th.

Written by playwright Mark St. Germain in 1993 about a jaunt that took place in 1921, some of the dialogue in this play is probably more suited to the political situation of today than when the lines were penned 24 years ago.

Apparently, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison did take an unplanned camping trip together. In the play, their motor car—a Ford, of course—hit a deer. The accident disabled their vehicle, and subsequently they got lost in the woods. It was St. Germain’s idea to invite President Warren Harding along on the trip.

Contributing to the realism of the situation is the woodsy ambiance of the beautiful set Gary McDonald and Jack McDonald designed and constructed.

Henry Ford, played with convincing feistiness by Barry Tarallo, represents all that is good and bad about America. An unapologetic anti-Semitic racist, Ford is portrayed as a deal-maker, an ambitious corporate genius with a zest for manufacturing and business, but little regard for ecology. Having revolutionized the American way of life, which led to the nation taking to the road, he would have loved the power that went with the U.S. presidency, but as Thomas Edison points out in the play, he lacked the necessary popularity and support.

Edison represents American know-how and creative invention. Played brilliantly by Richard Drusin, he tells it like it is, and most of his amusing lines, delivered with dry, charming folksiness, are pithy zingers. Drusin manages to capture a curmudgeonly, Asperger’s-like detachment from the other two, reading and letting them argue it out as Ford tries to talk Harding into resigning to make way for his own pitch for the job.

Harding, nicely played by Michael McCabe as the consummate glad-handing politician, is portrayed as a president who regards the position as more ceremonial than a real job. He spends much of his energy covering up scandals surrounding his office and his personal life.

I’ll leave you to infer how much of his monologues can be applied to today’s political climate in Washington. Judging from the reaction of the audience the evening I attended, they would seem to come pretty close to the bone.

The play won Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Awards in its New York premiere.

While essentially an entertaining comedy, it’s an important play for our times. Don’t miss it. No matter which side of the political fence you sit on, you’ll find lots to talk—and laugh—about afterwards.

For more information, go to The Red Barn is located at 401 Duval St. (Rear). Tickets available online or call (305) 296-9911.

(Joanna Brady is a Key West writer, author of The Woman at the Light, a historical novel of Key West, published by St. Martin’s Press.)

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