Amid the current backlash against Wall Street, Aaron Weismann’s new play “Counterfeiters”, presented by Dog & Pony Theater Company, explores American greed from the birth of our nation to its present. Instead of blaming the bankers for our fiscal failings, “Counterfeiters” offers this idea: maybe it’s our fault. Maybe it’s the fault of every American who desires to live beyond their means and intertwines their identities with their bank accounts.
David (Aaron Rustebakke) opens the show with a raffle. His face is all angles, his suit crisp, and he rouses the crowd with megalomaniacal charm. Soon we discover he is a slimy, money-grubbing incarnate of the American Dream. The central conflict of “Counterfeiters” lies between him and America’s forefather Benjamin Franklin (Scott Ray Merchant) who, through verse, laments the bastardization of paper currency and the disintegration of U.S. values.
Through song, dance, puppetry and poetry a cast of characters from the darkest eras of America’s economic history (the Civil War, the Great Depression, the 1980s recession) perform skits and describe how and why they have become counterfeiters. Annie Prichard, who plays riches-to-rags counterfeiter Maude, belts out bawdy songs with more confidence than her gritty voice might warrant, but overall her energy and stage presence make up for what she lacks vocally. When he’s not playing piano or encased in a cow costume, Alex E. Hardaway recounts the story of Sam, a ventriloquist who copied and sold confederate money during the Civil War. The show-stopping counterfeiting drag queens C & G, played by Caroline Kingsley and Kieran Kredell respectively, elicit the heaviest of laughs as they sachet around stage with relentless charisma.
Due to its quick pace and rotating cast of characters, “Counterfeiters” skates dangerously close to feeling frenetic but with tight direction from Krissy Vanderwarker and Jenn BeVard, the show remains cohesive, meaningful and a whole lot of fun.