American Hero OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

  • NY TIMES

  • VARIETY

  • NBC

  • DAILY NEWS

  • VULTURE

Opening Night:
May 22, 2014
Closing:
June 15, 2014

Theater: McGinn/Cazale Theater / 2162 Broadway, New York, NY, 10024

Synopsis: 

At a toasted subs franchise in the local mall, three up and coming "sandwich artists" -- a teenager, a single mom, and a downsized refugee from corporate banking -- are perfecting the mustard to cheese ratio according to the company manual. But when their shot at the American dream is interrupted by a series of strange events, they become unlikely allies in a post-recession world. American Hero is a supersized dark comedy about life, liberty and the pursuit of sandwiches.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF American Hero

    If Life Gives You Baloney, Make a Sandwich
    ‘American Hero’ Finds Comedy in a Fast-Food Franchise

    Charles Isherwood

    May 22, 2014: As the stacks of cold cuts and the sliced Cheddar dwindle, so do the prospects of staying financially afloat for the three beleaguered central characters in American Hero, a sweet and sour new comedy by Bess Wohl that opened on Thursday night at the McGinn/Cazale Theater in the annual Uptown series from Second Stage Theater. Cast adrift when the owner of the new sandwich franchise where they work mysteriously disappears, the store’s employees alternate between despair at the latest dead end in their lives and fragile hope that by keeping calm and carrying on making sandwiches, somehow things will turn out all right. Ms. Wohl’s improbable but often darkly funny comedy, directed with flair by Leigh Silverman (a Tony nominee for Violet), takes a wry, compassionate attitude toward American workers barely clinging to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. Only the 18-year-old Sheri (Erin Wilhelmi, fresh from The Great Immensity) seems likely to be moderately content asking customers “Wheat or white?” on an assembly line. (If you’ve ever been in a Subway store, you’ll recognize the drill.) Or rather, she might be, if she didn’t also have to work nights at the taco place nearby, because she has the sole responsibility of paying for her ailing father’s health bills.

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  • VARIETY REVIEW OF American Hero

    Off Broadway Review: ‘American Hero’ Starring Ari Graynor, Jerry O’Connell

    Marilyn Stasio

    May 22, 2014: For a play that needs to go through at least one more draft, American Hero is more provocative and entertaining than you’d expect. Set in a generic sandwich shop in an anonymous strip mall, Bess Wohl’s quirky comedy observes a few specimens of the embattled American working class whose aspirational hopes and dreams have been reduced to the low-wage service jobs they’re fighting to hang onto. Under Leigh Silverman’s sure directorial hand, a smart cast fills in some of the blanks of their unfinished characters, lending them some dignity in their darkest moments of comic desperation. The existential plight of the new owner of a sub shop franchise and his three freshly hired “sandwich artists” is not to be sneered at, although the drama that wracks their souls does involve how many slices of cheese should go into a sandwich. Simmering beneath the heroic battle to succeed in a cutthroat market — and the great crisis when the franchise is abandoned by its corporate owners — is a metaphorically rich survival drama about individual pluck and group courage.

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  • NBC NEW YORK REVIEW OF American Hero

    Review: Sub Shop Workers Go Rogue in

    Robert Kahn

    May 22, 2014: A dreary sandwich shop in a soulless strip mall is the setting for Bess Wohl’s thought-provoking, if unevenly seasoned American Hero, a comedy about three “sandwich artists” left to pick up the Sun Chips when they’re abandoned by the store manager and his corporate overlords. Directed by Leigh Silverman, a Tony nominee for the Roundabout’s stirring musical Violet, Hero is an offering from Second Stage Theatre’s uptown series, which focuses on emerging playwrights. Wohl is both a writer and an actress, whose on-screen credits include the Jodie Foster thriller Flightplan. In American Hero, Wohl’s minimum-wage workers are a trio of post-recession archetypes: a single-mom hoping to prevail in a custody battle (2ST vet Ari Graynor, of The Little Dog Laughed); an MBA recently axed from his banking job (Jerry O’Connell, last seen on Broadway in Seminar); and an awkward teen (Erin Wilhelmi), exhausted by her other gig at a taco joint.

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF American Hero

    ‘American Hero’: Theater review

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    May 22, 2014: The fitfully amusing but distractingly diffuse comedy American Hero follows three diverse people trying to earn their daily bread at a sandwich shop. At this quick-serve spot that looks a lot like Subway, the meat- and cheese-stuffed ’wiches are called Torpedoes. That’s a fitting name considering that so many explosive and dangerous things can come your way at any given moment. Besides mayo and mustard, post-recessionary angst and personal turmoil get spread on thick. Playwright Bess Wohl begins with a good idea — and a fun first scene involving a job interview. But her script is all over the place. The tone and focus keep shifting as we follow a trio with big troubles and no solutions in sight.

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  • VULTURE REVIEW OF American Hero

    Theater Review: American Hero Doesn’t Deliver

    Jesse Green

    May 22, 2014: The woe of hard work — the conflict between the dignity of labor and the indignity of actual laboring — has long been a favorite theatrical theme, with only the particulars changing to suit the times. Once, playwrights indulged their interest in this subject by writing of farmers and sailors, subject to the whims of nature and the chain of command. Then came machinists, clerks, prostitutes, and domestics. Now we seem to have settled on fast-food workers as our favorite grunts. Astoundingly, two shows this summer involve the specific subset of sandwich-making. One is a musical (Fly By Night, now in previews at Playwrights Horizons); the other is the Second Stage Uptown production of a new play by Bess Wohl called, alas, American Hero. The sad pun tells you a lot about Wohl’s ambitions here, including perhaps that they are too numerous. It’s a comedy, it’s a critique, it’s political, it’s interpersonal: It’s one of the indigestible combo torpedoes advertised on the backlit menu boards dominating Dane Laffrey’s set. The comedy element is the most successful, and naturally comes first, as an officious new franchisee reads the insane dictates of the corporate manual to the three new “sandwich artists” he’s hired.

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