“What the Constitution Means to Me” Theater Review

When a producer selects a politically charged play as part of their company season, one runs the risk of alienating and/or pleasing half of the audience, particularly in the current state of the US in these divided times.

In 1955, the Lee and Lawrence play “Inherit the Wind” brought about as much clamor from the public as applause in the recreation of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. It was polarizing then and, in certain circles, still is.

The ICT presentation of Heidi Schreck’s “What the Constitution Means to Me” is equally polarizing and divisive, depending on the respective audience member’s worldview. It’s tough to tell if the work as presented is a stellar example of free-form theater that encourages truthful interaction from the audience or is a staged social media screed that seeks an echo chamber from the comments section. Showered with awards and a Pulitzer Prize nominee, the work itself has a clear, decided bent on which way it leans politically that cannot be ignored even with the considerable talents of the excellent cast, direction and production.

Kelley Dorney Photo by Kayte Deioma

Leading the charge is a near-perfect performance by Kelley Dorney as Schreck herself in this autobiographical portrait of her evolving arc in how she perceives her beloved US Constitution through the form of teenage debate and real life. Dorney is absolutely remarkable as she traverses from an exuberant 15-year-old filled with lofty and hopeful ideals that temper over time with her personal family history. One simply cannot take their eyes off of this amazing actress who possesses so much energy that the rest of us can only wish that we had. She’s that good.

Tom Trudgeon Photo by Kayte Deioma

Tom Trudgeon pulls double duty as the Legionnaire and Mike, delivering monologues and sounding board responses with the power that each role requires and quite well. An able and solid talent, to be sure.

Sheila Correa Photo by Kayte Deioma

ICT newcomer Sheila Correa shines as the Debater, her personality and stage presence giving the role the likeable charisma that it needs. An auspicious debut which garnered much well-deserved applause.

Artistic Director (and the play’s director) caryn desai [sic] proves her formidable talent and theatrical prowess yet again as the blocking is practically invisible and never detracts from the actors or the action which takes place on the wonderful VFW Hall set by Tim Mueller. desai’s clever use of pre-recorded voices from history as commentary is staggering and topical. The lines of reality are blurred as the actors alternate between their roles and themselves as characters who inhabit the stage.

Kelley Dorney and Tom Trudgeon Photo by Kayte Deioma

Some scenes feel unnecessary, such as Mike/Tom’s monologue about coming out/toxic male apologia or the Q and A between Kelley and Sheila, as they don’t seem to add anything of note and distract from the whole point of the play’s subject matter. But the solid performances and direction keep it all moving for an enjoyable evening. Complimentary copies of the US Constitution were handed out to all the patrons as a gift, which was a very nice touch for those who wished to further their education and familiarity with this most important document of US history.

Kelley Dorney, Sheila Correa, Tom Trudgeon Photo by Kayte Deioma

In her director’s notes in the program, Desai mentions that her hope is to choose a play that does not divide us but rather brings us together to confront our own thoughts and values in understanding our shared humanity. As always, she pulls this intent off admirably. But, in spite of that, there does exist an unfair targeting of the white male demographic in the work itself. As per her notes, the play largely does indeed create a respectful, intelligent and honest dialogue, but also is juxtaposed by the hope that all can come away from the show in understanding the importance of standing up for what you believe in regardless of what political views may be held.

Desai’s comment that “We must come together and let the better angels within us lead” perfectly encapsulates the full meaning and relevance of “What the Constitution Means to Me.”

International City Theatre presents “What the Constitution Means to Me,” the Obie and New York Drama Critics Circle award-winning play by Heidi Schreck that breathes new life into our Constitution and imagines how it will shape the next generation of Americans. Fifteen-year-old Heidi earned her college tuition by winning Constitutional debate competitions across the United States. In this hilarious, hopeful, and achingly human play, she resurrects her teenage self in order to trace the profound relationship between four generations of women and the founding document that shaped their lives.

  • Written by Heidi Schreck
  • Produced and Directed by caryn desai
  • Starring Kelley Dorney, Tom Trudgeon and Sheila Correa
  • Presented by International City Theatre

Previews: May 1 and May 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Performances: May 3 – May 19

  • Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.: May 1 ONLY (preview)
  • Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.: May 2 (preview), May 9, May 16
  • Fridays at 7:30 p.m.: May 3 (Opening Night), May 10, May 17
  • Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.: May 4, May 11, May 18

Sundays at 2 p.m.: May 5, May 12, May 19


  • Opening Night (May 3): $55 (includes post-show reception with the actors)
  • Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except Friday, May 3): $49
  • Sunday matinees: $52
  • Previews: $37

International City Theatre, Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center’s Beverly O’Neill Theater – 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. For more information call (562) 436-4610.


Bryan Moore

About Bryan Moore

Theatrical connoisseur, colorful raconteur of some note, sartorial gentleman about town. Coffee's for closers. Fortune favors the bold.
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