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Review: Spirited 'Constitution' both timely and timeless


Tom Long  |  Special to The Detroit News

Here’s the thing about “What the Constitution Means To Me”: It’s horrifying, enlightening, funny, inspiring, surprising and smart. 

But most importantly, it’s entertaining, raucously entertaining. 

This almost one-woman show is neither the earnest civics lesson the title might suggest nor another political diatribe in this season of political diatribes. It is instead a thing unique and exhilarating. 

Writer-star Heidi Schreck spent her high school years traveling to debates on “What the Constitution Means To Me,” earning scholarship money for college. In her 40s she decided to weave those experiences and a broad number of others into a much-lauded stage play. Now director Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) has captured the live play artfully on film. 

Schreck, standing in a replica of an American Legion Hall, begins by echoing her old debate points with good humor. But then she moves on, digging into specific clauses, pointing out that the word “woman” never appears in the document, wondering where certain amendments failed, tying points to abortion, rape, domestic violence, racism and other timely/timeless topics. 

Which sounds heavy and it can be hard-hitting but somehow Schreck, a wonderfully physical comic, also finds herself guiding logs down a river with a pike and bawling in an airport when (as a grown woman) she’s left a favorite doll on a plane. It’s all strikingly good show biz. 

Which somehow gets even better as the show peaks – as it does in every performance – with a teenage debate wiz coming on to live debate Schreck over whether the constitution should be abolished. The teen here is named Rosdely Ciprian and she and Schreck deliver a fiery duel that fuels hope for the future. 

In a time of such desperate political discontent, “What the Constitution Means To Me” offers hope that communication, examination and gobs of good humor may help us persevere. See it. 

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.

'What the Constitution Means to Me' 

GRADE: A 

Amazon Prime