With its complicated politics, we often forget that American history is full of dramatic stories and political ploys. “Star-Spangled Sitcoms: Huzzah and John Adams” reminds us how American history is chock full of theatrics, while also parodying two classic sitcoms, “Cheers” and “Frasier.” The comedic platform is the perfect way to remind us of our nation’s rocky history and its ability to rebound when a comeback seemed most unlikely.
The first part of the play, “Huzzah”, takes place in Samuel Adams’ bar in 1773 and mimics the format of the classic 1990s sitcom “Cheers.” It’s a popular bar among many Founding Fathers-to-be, including Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. One day, Betsy Ross and Sam’s cousin, John Adams, come into the bar, and through a series of drunken complaints about British taxes, a plan arises to dump tea into the Boston harbor as a form of protest. Fans of the show get an opportunity to see their favorite characters set in the time of American Revolution. The play contains many references to “Cheers,” including a parody of a theme song that replaces the classic words with revolutionary lyrics. The story of the Boston Tea Party is one I’ve heard many times over the years, but “Huzzah” gives an original twist and new life to these historical figures. The combination of American history and sitcoms blends perfectly to tell an old story in a new light.
The second part of the play, “John Adams,” occurs many years after “Huzzah.” It is a spin-off story that takes place in the home of John Adams, who is now president, as he throws a Thanksgiving dinner party in honor of his predecessor, George Washington. When Washington shows up for dinner, he brings his pet turkey and the man who John Adams loathes: Alexander Hamilton. The tightly-strung John Adams deals with many different issues throughout the night. The talkative maid misplaced the silverware, Thomas Jefferson, his neighbor, threw disturbing parties and George Washington’s Turkey is accidentally killed. This story line is less historically accurate than “Huzzah,” but this allowed playwright Cody Melcher to create broader, more outlandish parodies of our founding fathers.
“John Adams” is based on the “Cheers” spinoff, “Frasier.” Nathan Pease, who plays John Adams, does a perfect impression of the angry Dr. Fraiser Crane, expertly executing the screams of frustration for which Frasier, the main character of the titular TV show, is so well known. The characters are skillfully morphed into a late 18th-century American setting, with hilarious references to the original show. The combination of historical characters in a modern sitcom setting reminds us that drama is part of the American political landscape and in 200 years our current political problems might seem humorous.
Playwright Cody Melcher created a master combination of American history and American television in “Star-Spangled Sitcoms: Huzzah and John Adams.” The writing is clever and relatable, allowing one to forget todays’ political turmoil by looking at the scandals of the past. If you love American history and sitcoms, or you just want a reminder that drama has always been a part of American politics, this is definitely the show to see.
“Star-Spangled Sitcoms: Huzzah and John Adams” will play at the City Lit Theater through Dec. 4. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com/events/2614533 or at the door. City Lit Theater is located at 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. in Edgewater.