Willy’s young son Biff finds out a startling truth during a scene of This Great Country. Image from The New York Times.
The American dream: envision fresh baked apple pies, a perfect home, a perfect dog, and a wallet that smells like freshly counted hundred bills every time you open it. It’s easy to imagine these highly sought out ideas of American idealism. Now imagine slaving away your entire life to reach this so-called “American Dream,” only to fall short of it.
600 HIGHWAYMEN, a small theater group that presented the play This Great Country at this year’s River to River Festival, did a great job of perfectly painting the image you’ve just imagined. The group transformed a vacant store space at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 into a 2-hour long show that chronicled the daily struggles of a modern day businessman and his quest to get his own slice of the American dream. An organization that was only founded in 2009 by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone shows great promise to play alongside the big guys on Broadway. This Great Country is the sad but occasionally hilarious story of Willy Lowman, a struggling salesman who goes through all measures to try and push his son Biff into the business world. 600 HIGHWAYMEN creates a tragicomic mood by using different actors to play the role of the main character, Willy Lowman.
Although it was occasionally tough to tell which actor was playing which character at certain points, the idea of chasing the American dream was conveyed nonetheless by actors of various races, genders, and age. Overall, I found 600 HIGHWAYMEN’s artistic transformation of vacant space both visually striking and thought provoking.