The Thanksgiving Play Broadway Review No Meat On These Bones

‘The Thanksgiving Play’ Broadway Review: No Meat On These Bones

The Thanksgiving Game

Johanna Marcus

Eight years is pretty close to eternity when it comes to current humor sell-by dates, which could be one of the reasons the jokes in Larissa FastHorse’s Broadway comedy The Thanksgiving Play are going by like an unbaked cake. We can only surmise that when she started writing this satire of liberal guilt in 2015, stirring up sensibilities and goopy indulgence, words like “decoupling” and “soymilk” seemed like great punch lines.

Premiered tonight at the Hayes Theatre, The Thanksgiving Play directed by Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812) and starring D’Arcy Carden, Katie Finneran, Scott Foley and Chris Sullivan – all directors and cast done a much better job on other stages – is the kind of purposeful satire that should certainly make discerning New York audiences recognize their own weaknesses and smile at their own political vulnerabilities.

Where exactly is this Thanksgiving going wrong? Starts with the soup, ends with the nuts.

Set in an elementary school classroom, the play follows four white adults — an acting teacher, her boyfriend, a “yoga guy” who’s an occasional actor, a high school history teacher, and a Los Angeles actress mistaken for Native American ancestry is being held – tasked with staging this year’s Thanksgiving game. Determined to present a politically correct account of the history of the Native American Pilgrimage Festival, the liberal teacher and her equally serious boyfriend have recruited this history-slash-playwright-teacher-wannabe and actress who they believe will her a non-white perspective.

From the start, the premise demands a lot from the audience. Are we supposed to believe that an elementary school production stars a professional actress from Los Angeles? That even in the post-George Floyd era (actually his name is checked) real government “diversity” money is available for such productions? That even the most clueless “woke” do-gooders could have an exchange like the one in which they ask the not-so-Native American actress about her family’s holiday traditions.

“We just ate and watched games,” she says.

“What kind of games?” They ask.

“Only the ones everyone sees,” she replies, a response the audience understands, even if the fools on stage don’t.

When asked how she can learn more about those games, the actress says, “I think the Chiefs are playing Monday, right?”

Does the answer come, “There’s a whole game just for chiefs? That is amazing!”

Such far-fetched lines pile up like so many Thanksgiving turkey bones, the dialogue as inexplicable as the sudden appearance of bloodied human prop heads (this is elementary school, please remember, even if the playwright doesn’t) and extra-character actions (yoga guy kind of gets his hands on blue face paint and goes full on Braveheart).

Interspersed with the fictional events are video projections of school children reciting what appear to be genuine elementary school Thanksgiving songs, appallingly racist and violent. It’s unclear exactly when these grotesques were written, but they make clearer statements than anything else that happens on stage.

title: The Thanksgiving Game
Venue: Hayes Theater on Broadway
Director: Rachel Chavkin
Playwright: Larissa Fast Horse
Pour: D’Arcy Carden, Katie Finneran, Scott Foley and Chris Sullivan
Duration: 80 minutes (without a break)