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Whenever there's a discussion on the merits of the American Dream, a reference to Ozzie and Harriet is never far behind. Remington Moses knows this first hand as the great granddaughter of the iconic TV stars. So not playing along with the fantasy has been an unavoidable focal point of her entire existence. “I think my whole life as a human being has been talking about the fallacy,” said Moses. As a result, the irony of landing a lead role in the play THELONIOUS! by Peter Welch is not lost on her.
“The play is a representation of the anti-American dream,” said the NYC-based actress.
Running at the Theater for the New City from February 7 to March 3, the absurdist comedy counters the way we are conditioned to believe. In other words, THELONIOUS! directs us to give in to the unpredictable nature of life and not get caught up in the American trap of societal expectations.
On the receiving end, Carl (Nicholas Santasier) is the victim of the picturesque fantasy many of us succumb to. The play first emerged as the writer observed the relationship part of the deferred dream. “Just grappling with life, viewing the stress of marriage and chasing the American dream,” said Peter Welch. “It’s the juxtaposition of how easy it looks and how difficult it is.”
A relationship fallen apart 18 years ago had him shelve the project, but life experience breathed life into his pen. “I look at life so much differently now,” Welch said. “Most of it is behind me so a lot of the mystery is gone. The good part is I don’t have the fears about the future, which allows me to enjoy things more now. The bad part is—I’m older.”
So Welch conjured an apparition that only Carl can see and sets the searching husband on his journey. Named THELONIOUS! and played by Sly Augustus, this leaves Carl caught between the competing worlds that we all try to balance. “He is trying to distinguish from what society tells him that he needs, and what his heart needs,” said Moses.
Left out of the channeling, Moses as Sandy must navigate the erratic path her husband meanders. “I’m the voice of reason,” Moses said. “She’s grounded in reality and truth.”
A change of pace for someone who has played a lot of aliens, monsters and creatures. “I’m finding it challenging—having played so many parts that are opposite,” Moses reflected.
But the whole agenda of THELONIOUS! obviously doesn’t have her straying far from her family history, and it doesn’t matter that she knows the truth. “Ozzie and Harriet were not cookie cutter people. They were business people and very savvy,” Moses said. “Harriet didn’t know how to turn on an oven and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day.”
At the same time, the insight hasn’t led her as her parents hoped. “My family was wishing that I would escape the entertainment business,” she said, but as tempting as the American dream sounds, Moses doesn’t think it would be satisfying.
At the same time, the current political state allows THELONIOUS! to administer an underhanded slap in the face. “It is very quietly anti-Trump,” said Moses.
Allegory feels like home.
Nonetheless, the play isn’t so much a rant against all we supposedly hold dear, according to Moses. “I would say it’s not really a criticism of America, but an allegory,” she said.
Going live also counters the technology and media onslaught that walls us off into our respective corners. “When doing theater like this, it’s all about telling a story, community and being part of a bigger group,” said Moses.
In accordance, the Theater for the New City is just the venue. “The theater always feels so rebellious,” Moses implored.
In the end, theater is where her dream resides. “Whenever I’m on stage, it just feels like where I’m supposed to be,” she concluded. “I’m home. This is my tribe.”
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