Staggering Toward America | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Staggering Toward America 

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STAGGERING TOWARDS AMERICA, at the Athenaeum Theatre. In this one-man show, scruffy, affable Rik Reppe shares recollections of a road trip he took after September 11, 2001, hoping to reconnect with America. It turns out his path was marked by the kindness and simple patriotism of strangers: old Armenians banging a table at McDonald's to punctuate their feelings about freedom, a white Christian Republican southerner who forgot his bigotry to honor a soldier, a wheelchair-bound black woman who introduced Reppe to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

It's unfortunate that the piece revolves around 9/11: between CNN, songs, and coffee-table books, we've been inundated with reflections on that event. However, Reppe shares lessons that transcend it--for example, his discovery that the antidote to alienation is getting involved. Another gift is the reminder that, although it sometimes feels like America is homogenizing into a shell of strip malls and subdivisions inhabited by TV zombies, the country remains a rich tapestry of characters, ideas, and bizarre places--like a truck stop in Gary, Indiana, that hosted Christmas-carol karaoke one morning. Some will find Reppe's roller coaster of cranky, comical, poignant moments maudlin; others who enjoy real-world slices of Americana or share his need to reconnect may find comfort or even healing.

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