Pledge of Allegiance | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Pledge of Allegiance

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PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, American Theater Company. It's difficult to say why this work falls so flat. Playwright Mark R. Giesser has an intriguing story to tell. Catherine Ogden, a widow living in a Nova Scotia camp for refugees from the American Revolution, is desperate to rebuild her life after her husband was mistakenly hanged as a British spy and her home was torched by zealous neighbors. In order to receive reparations from the British, she must convince Colonel Thomas Dundas that her husband was loyal to the crown when in fact he was a committed fence-sitter. Director Michael Halberstam's cast performs this history play ably, if a bit perfunctorily, generating enough passion to overcome the spells of academic dryness to which Giesser occasionally falls prey.

Trouble is, he's more dabbler than playwright. He toys with politics during the American Revolution, fiddles with refugee life, muses about military justice, and bandies about such ideas as loyalty and treason. But he never settles on a coherent dramatic through line, hopping from reenacted trauma to reenacted trauma and throwing in the ghost of Catherine's husband to keep the poor woman appropriately addled for two acts. Giesser's haphazard plot and humorless tone leave the actors to try to stoke the play's fires, such as they are.

--Justin Hayford

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