Shtick Shift

Neither openly liberal nor conservative, the creators of Complete History play it safe with their audience by taking shots all across the American political spectrum. For instance, when Thomas Jefferson suggests the Bill of Rights should begin with the phrase "Got a problem? Throw money at it," James Madison retorts, "No, no, too liberal. How 'bout this: 'Screw the poor. Let's party.'" Likewise the show irreverently targets other groups who have, in various ways, tried to put their own imprints on our readings of the past, among them women, blacks, environmentalists, and those who would rewrite the "Star-Spangled Banner" to make it less militaristic.

If anything threatens to capsize the buoyant humor of Complete History, it's the casting. In this as well as other productions of the play that have been staged in Boston, London, and Washington, D.C., the troupe has consisted of the three white male playwrights or people who resemble them. While the FST's Clement, Baldwin, and Weinberg are all topnotch performers (Weinberg, who plays most of the women's parts, is especially good), it's undeniable that the show's dynamic would be completely changed by casting women, gays, or nonwhites.

Does this matter? The orthodox makeup of the cast doesn't alter the fact that the show itself is riotous good fun, give or take a few Jesse Helms jokes. But the subtle, underlying message seems to be: "We white men can make room for the rest of you -- and we may even revise history to accommodate your points of view -- but we're still in charge of the jokes."

Despite its tongue-in-cheek promise to eradicate "all forms of racism, sexism, ageism, weightism, hair-colorism, making-funism, and Godism," Complete History doesn't draw on quite as wide a range of points of view as it would have us believe. If it were truly as clever and incisive as it thinks it is, the revue would make fun of its own cultural biases, too. Complete History starts out by reminding us that "history is written by the winners. Tonight it's our turn." A small quibble, perhaps, but after an hour and a half, I began to wish it were someone else's turn.

The Complete History of America (abridged). Written by Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor. Directed by Barbara Lowery. Starring John Baldwin, Ken Clement, and Ale Weinberg. Through November 22. Florida Shakespeare Theatre at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables, 305-445-1119.

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