Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Red Haired Thomas (Soho Think Tank)

By Molly
sort of a political allegory • sort of theatre of the absurd • intellectualized and insightful • well acted • poses interesting points worth discussing

BOTTOM LINE: Too many good points are raised in Red-Haired Thomas.

Soho Think Tank's new play Red-Haired Thomas, by Robert Lyons, resurrects Thomas Jefferson and gets his insight about the current state of American politics. Our kindhearted founding father is not pleased. This play also offers speculation on the notion of luck and circumstance; whether you're born into fortune in America or born into volatile conflict in the Middle East, we're all essentially after the same common desires. At the same time, it also ponders the principles surrounding the American Revolution in connection with worldly events of today; if the colonists were rebelling today would they be considered terrorists? Red-Haired Thomas offers a lot of food for thought.

These queries are presented among an otherwise simple story of family strife and growing up. Cliff (Peter Sprague) is a gambling addict enabled by his power-suit-wearing wife Marissa (Danielle Skraastad, at right). Their 12-year-old daughter Abby (Nicole Raphael) is beginning to distance herself from childish things and Cliff is reaching an existential crisis of what matters and what doesn't. Although that sounds linear and easy to follow, this is where we break from reality. Thomas Jefferson (Alan Benditt, at right) presides over this story as the not-so-imaginary, not-really-a-figment-of-anyone's-imagination ex-president slash ex-father of Cliff and his brother Ifthikar (Danny Beiruti), a Middle Eastern man working at Cliff's local bodega, in a sort of nature vs. nurture experiment.

The plot of Red-Haired Thomas underlies the message of the play, and it's really the timely words of wisdom regarding our current political state that serve as the takeaway, rather than the story itself. And that's for the best because this plot takes on a lot without much explanation. The absurdist presentation of the piece takes precedence, sucking time that could've been used to offer insightful dialogue (or at least to let Jefferson say more...Benditt plays a hilariously woeful ex-pres). I would've loved to hear Jefferson dissect new-millenium America further, rather than, say, the uninspired song and dance break intended to develop a character that didn't need further development. When this script hones in on a point and offers a unique perception it is right on the money.

Certainly, Red-Haired Thomas leaves its audience with much to think about. If you like political commentary and are interested in the historical ramifications of our past, this is definitely a piece worth checking out. Through Jefferson's disappointed eyes, it's clear that the world is, in many ways, missing the boat on issues of equality and happiness. Red-Haired Thomas is a compelling play that provides great conversation starters.

(Red-Haired Thomas plays at the Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street, through March 28th. Performance times are Thursday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 7pm. Run time is 80 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $18 and $12 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at or by calling 212.868.4444. For more show info visit

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