Tuesday, September 17, 2019
‘American Hero’ a ‘Battleground for the Soul of America’
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Matt Gorby and Anik Zarkos star in ‘American Hero.’ COURTESY: The Spot
 
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Life, liberty and the pursuit of sandwiches.

That would just about sum up “American Hero,” according to director Yanna Lantz.

“ ‘American Hero’ is about three people who are just trying to make it in the world in a sandwich store that is unable to make it in this world. When we first selected this comedy for our season, I didn’t realize how real this situation is for so many fast-food franchises in America and how hard their employees have it,” she said. “These sandwich artists are set up for an uphill battle—and their lives are not easy to begin with.”

 
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Matt Gorby and Director Yanna Lantz discuss the finer points of sandwich making as Vanessa Sterling looks on. COURTESY: The Spot
 

The Spot will stage Beth Wohl’s “American Hero” Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 22-25 at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Aug. 25. It will also stage the show Tuesday through Saturday, Aug. 27-31, at 7 p.m. at The Spot, 220 Lewis St.

Tickets are $25, available at www.spotsunvalley.com. They’re $13 for those under 30 years of age.

The darkly funny comedy, which one reviewer called “sweet and sour,” revolves around three American workers barely clinging to the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

Eighteen-year-old Sheri, played by Anik Zarkos in her MainStage debut at The Spot, works two jobs—at the sandwich store and a nearby taco place--to pay for her ailing father’s health bills.

Jamie, played by Vanessa Sterling who is making her Spot debut, is a sarcastic single Mom in her 30s who has fallen on hard times. She cares not for learning to build a proper sandwich but she does seem very much interested in her fellow employee Ted.

Ted, played by Matt Gorby, is a bank employee who has resorted to building sandwiches because he can’t find work in his field to care for his two kids.

What would be simple and routine is upended when their boss—the foreign-born owner of the franchise played by Kevin Wade—disappears. And the rudderless workers wonder if he’s somehow involved in terrorism, given an angry-sounding phone conversation one of them overheard.

Without their boss around, they decide to remake the store in their own style after Sheri has a dream in which a giant talking sandwich convinces her to forget corporate orders and “do your own thing.”

“I love the way this play takes a mundane location, a toasted subs franchise, and expands it into a battleground for the soul of America,” said Kevin Wade. “The human struggle during difficult economic times is thrown into sharp relief against the simple backdrop of a sandwich shop.”

“It’s really neat to work on a show about people you could meet on the street,” added Lighting Director Samuel Mollner. “Sometimes it’s important to tell stories about slaying dragons, but it is just as important to tell stories about a minimum wage job. Both types of stories say something about what it is to be human.”

Vanessa Sterling said she is blown away by the complexity of the characters and the reality of the circumstances in which they find themselves.

“An audience member has the privilege of seeing the bigger picture, but each individual character has a completely different perspective when it comes to what’s happening in the world around them. This play is about real people in a place we are all familiar with feeling feelings we’ve all felt before. There’s not one person in this play that I can honestly say I haven’t walked in their shoes at some point.”

It’s difficult to make a play like this that is so real and humorous at the same time, said Matt Gorby.

“I like how the comedy comes from true-to-life situations. It seems so authentic, and the cast truly brings these characters to life,” he added.

Yanna Lantz said she’s thrilled to have “the master of comedy” Matt Gorby back.

“He’ll make you laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh. And, of course, seeing the incomparable Kevin Wade as a sandwich is something that you will never forget,” she said. “The play is enchanting in its humor, wit and heart. The characters are all so relatable and I fall in love with them every single night. I hope the audience will go away laughing, smiling and inspired to find positivity and creativity in their own lives.”

Gorby says he hopes the audience will be reminded, as well, to treat everyone with kindness, “just like we would want to be treated.”

“Even when you are down, it’s important to realize that you can’t know the situations of others around you,” he pointed out. “Perhaps the driver in front of you is not sure where he’s going. Or, maybe the barista got some bad news that morning and he’s trying to keep his head above work.”

Sterling agreed. “We’re all just people trying to do our best under a variety of often difficult circumstances. Have compassion for one another and consider what the cost would be to reach out to someone who needs a hand.”

THE PERFECT SANDWICH?

Eye on Sun Valley asked the actors in “American Hero” what the perfect sandwich would consist of if they were truly in the art of making sandwiches. (P.S. You don’t want to read any further if your stomach is inching toward the morning growls.)

Matt Gorby—A Beefeater from Alpin Pantry in old Greenwich, Conn. It’s the best sandwich ever! Rare roast beef on fresh baked Russian black bread with lettuce, tomato and Russian dressing.

Vanessa Sterling—Cheddar and Swiss, bacon and avocado on toasted multigrain bread. No condiments, just lettuce and tomato.

Samuel Mollner—Salami and roast beef with sprouts, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and mayo on sourdough.

 

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