JQA”: POSNER’S LOOK AT AMERICAN HISTORY THAT CUDDA, SHUDDA MIGHT HAVE BEEN.
I wish I paid more attention to my American history. Living in Boston in my growing up years where so much history was made, I knew that John Adams second president of the United States was from Boston; Braintree, Mass. to be exact. But when you’re that famous, Boston will do. His son, John Quincy Adams, was the sixth president. There was also a John Adams II. No accident, he was born in Quincy, Mass. Technically parts of Braintree broke away to form Quincy, Mass. Been there, done that. But that’s another history lesson. So, the Adams’ family (not to be confused with the Addams Family) is certainly well known in them thare parts. We even have an Adams Ave right here in San Diego.
Now to the subject at hand, “JQA”. Or to put it in other words, John Quincy Adams. Who knew? Another president, another time.
“JQA” is a relatively new play by playwright Adam Posner (“Stupid Fu**ing Bird”). It streaming on line through the 29 th. of Nov., from the folks at The San Diego Rep. under the deft direction of Artistic Director Sam Woodhouse.
Between the musicals “Blood, Bloody Andrew Jackson” (2006) “Hamilton the Musical, “1776”, and more and with plays like “Necessary Sacrifices” and “Roosevelt: Charge the Bear”, and provided we all come out of this pandemic and the last four years of one of the most gawdauful and depressing times (read DJT) in our history, we should all have fun with these historical American figures.
Playwright Aaron Posner’s latest, I hope hit “JQA” has so much to talk and think about that one hardly knows where to begin. But if we must start at the beginning let’s first begin by announcing that JQA is “NOT historically accurate, but it is largely historically feasible.” It’s a what if, who, how and when. You can almost forget how Posner sucks you in to believe or want to believe that all he says is accurate. Imagine if you had a chance to talk with any one person from history, dead or alive, who would it be? My twelve year old grandson chose John F. Kennedy. Smart boy.
In Posner’s JQA”, John Quincy Adams, oldest son of John Adams; statesman, congressman, president, husband and father, (and not a very good one by his own admission: “they bore me to hell”) has an opportunity to interact with George Washington, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, and Fredrick Douglass. (Remember him in “Necessary Sacrifices” in conversations with Abraham Lincoln?)
All of those characters and more are played by four actors; two male, two females who all turn in brilliant work in the flash of the moment or next scene. There are ten starting in 1776. We begin with some historical background and then: John Adams is teaching his son John Quincy at age 10: asking, “Do you know what government is?”
Posner’s conversations (again imagined) between Adams and other historical figures cover topics from an exchange with George Washington (played with panache by Rosina Reynolds (she also plays an older Abigail Adams and James Monroe.) The young Adams is played by Crystal Lucas Perry They are in Boston (shown drinking from paper coffee cups). Adams was 27, Washington is 62. Washington appoints Adams to be his Minister to the Netherlands. When Adams hesitates: G.W. “I’m The President, the father of your damn country, and you probably don’t want to piss me off.” And so, it goes.
The multi-talented cast includes Larry Bates, (Andrew Jackson and Frederick Douglass), Rosina Reynolds, Chrystal Lucas-Perry and Jesse Perez. Perez takes a turn (they all play multiple characters) as Secretary of State Henry Clay who warns that if “You can’t learn to compromise you’re going to be playing more golf than governing.” Sound familiar? Perez plays the senior Adams and Henry Clay as well. He's also not without his bias toward immigrants, Jews, Blacks and the list goes on. ("You can take away their liberties...and as often as not they'll thank you for it.") How true.
Crystal Lucas Perry as Adams' wife Louisa has one of the more constant roles of adversary, mother and wife. When Adams is indifferent to her feelings, or when he’s off on the trip or disregards her ill feelings about his parents, Abigail and John Adams, she lets it all hang out. She is especially vocal towards his mother who treated her ‘brutally in her words, and that she must’ve been broken inside because she had so many miscarriages’ she has no trouble letting him know.
Larry Bates as Frederick Douglass and Rosina Reynolds as JQA
If truth be told and that may be the truth, she is pretty faithful to him and may be the only person who really tells him how things are. Later on, in the play she shows up as young Abraham Lincoln facing the elder statesman JQA now played by Perez and that turns into a very revealing conversation especially when Adams cautions Lincoln ‘to do right.’
It seems the slavery issue isn’t going to be solved overnight. If you remember “Necessary Sacrifices” and the then conversations between Lincoln and Douglass in 1863? In “JQA” that conversation happens again 1843. No need to repeat that history. It's already being repeated.
With the tumult in the country now, history is repeating itself as we speak. And talk about history, the conversations between Adams the President and his Secretary of State Henry Clay played zealously by Jesse Perez and sounding the alarm as if the words came straight from the lips of DJT. (Scare the fuck out of them. Give ‘em something to fear. Something dark... and dangerous... and disturbingly different from them. “) It's astounding!
And so it goes with each and every historical personality with whom Adams comes into contact, and Posner's JQA matching these men and women of history and bringing their voices to the fore of the 21st century is brilliant, entertaining, humorous, and eye opening.
Lest we think DJT is the worst of bunch, there were others, not in our lifetimes though, who could have done as much damage as this one, but men and women of honor who stood for creating a strong, free independent nation and fulfilling the dreams of the signers of the Declaration of Independence let their voices be heard. They were not afraid.
Hats off to The San Diego Repertory Theatre.
The production team is rounded out by: Justin Humphres (Set Design); Anastasia Pautova (Costume Design); Chris Rynne (Lighting Design); Matt Lescault-Wood (Sound Design); Joel Castellaw (Dramaturgy); Film Directing by Tim Powell, Rebecca Myers (Assistant Director); and Kim Heil (Casting Director & Associate Producer), Photos by Daren Scott.
Tickets are $35. 00 + fees for on line tickets.
It will be streaming through November, 29, 2020
For more information visit:
Just as an afterthought, you might be interested in reading :Obama needs to follow John Quincy Adams' lead back to Congress