American Hero: In brief
Ari Graynor, Jerry O'Connell, Erin Wilhelmi and Daoud Heidami star in Bess Wohl's comedy about a foundering new sandwich shop. Leigh Silverman directs the New York premiere for Second Stage Uptown.
American Hero: Theater review by Adam Feldman
American Hero is set in a Midwestern franchise sandwich shop, where employees’ roles on the snack-assembly line are strictly assigned. Overworked teen Sheri (the translucent Erin Wilhelmi) starts things off as the “baser”; Ted (Jerry O’Connell), a desperately gung ho former corporate shark, adds major items as the “finisher”; and messy tough chick Jamie (Ari Graynor, raspily vibrant as ever) concludes the process as the “wrapper.” It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for the play’s overqualified, underpaid employees—by which I mean its cast. Along with Daoud Heidami, who plays four smaller parts, they make what they can with the ingredients of Bess Wohl’s hard-sell comedy: thin meat, processed cheese and mostly wilted fillers, all in a staling wrap.
When the store’s sketchy foreign-accented owner disappears, the gang must come up with a plan to keep the place open. (In the weirdest scene, Sheri shares a slow dance with a prime-rib sandwich in a lettuce-lined jacket, to a Muzak arrangement of Savage Garden.) WE HAVE BEEN ADANDONED BY CORPORATE is the basic idea, spelled out explicitly on a homemade sign and implicitly on every page of the script. Even audiences hungry for this message may have trouble swallowing the version contrived for them here.—Theater review by Adam Feldman
THE BOTTOM LINE The actors rise above their stations.
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