In the two-act production of The Complete History of America (Abridged), Christopher Varano alone plays George Washington, Amerigo Vespucci, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, John Wilkes Booth and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, among other notables. So, needless to say, the show's scope covers more history than Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and with better actors.
Varano, Brantley Scott Haines and Cory Moosman share their history lesson in roughly 25 short segments, beginning with the discovery of the North American continent and concluding with the Bush administration, already tragically comical beyond repair. The cast brings back the same chemistry they showed FAC audiences last year with The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged).
"Brantley is pretty much the crazy one," explains Varano. "Cory is the professor of the group, and I'm a mix of the two." Haines, physically the biggest of the actors, plays all the women, from Vespucci's wife Sophia to Sacagawea of the Lewis and Clark expeditions.
In order to pull off the tightly timed segments and 20-plus costume changes for each actor, costume designer Elizabeth Frye has sewn costumes with open seams and Velcro down the back. Each of the actors starts with a base costume: corduroys, a button-down shirt and a sports jacket. Cast members take turns running backstage to throw costumes on over the base. It takes all of five minutes to see Haines donning the "Sophia" dress, breasts already sewn into the chest.
"The actors have great skill in making just a pair of glasses turn them into an entirely different person," Frye says.
Like the actors' base costume, there's a base set that gets embellished with various props. Set designer Ron Ballard was inspired by New York theater.
"There are a lot of subterranean, garden-level spaces that are always very interesting and very bizarre and comical, because everyone loves to turn everything into a theater in New York," says Ballard. "I did this with the same premise."
Ballard moved the back wall of the theater up toward the proscenium (definition: not an obscene body part, but the arch at the front of the stage) and added faux exposed pipes and scaffolding to the polished SaGa Ji Theatre stage.
With the sparse set, Ballard and the actors rely heavily on a nearly limitless supply of props to bring an aura of each era to the audience.
As technical director Chris Sheley says, "It looks like a toy box in there." Some gems you may see include a Mardi Gras-inspired Lincoln puppet, a giant stuffed fish and water guns.
The Complete History of America (Abridged)
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
Runs March 30 through April 15, Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m., and Sunday, 2 p.m.
Tickest: $20-$22; call
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