STAGGERING TOWARDS AMERICA, at the Athenaeum Theatre. In this one-man show, scruffy, affable Rik Reppe shares recollections of a road trip he took after September 11, 2001, hoping to reconnect with America. It turns out his path was marked by the kindness and simple patriotism of strangers: old Armenians banging a table at McDonald’s to punctuate their feelings about freedom, a white Christian Republican southerner who forgot his bigotry to honor a soldier, a wheelchair-bound black woman who introduced Reppe to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
It’s unfortunate that the piece revolves around 9/11: between CNN, songs, and coffee-table books, we’ve been inundated with reflections on that event. However, Reppe shares lessons that transcend it–for example, his discovery that the antidote to alienation is getting involved. Another gift is the reminder that, although it sometimes feels like America is homogenizing into a shell of strip malls and subdivisions inhabited by TV zombies, the country remains a rich tapestry of characters, ideas, and bizarre places–like a truck stop in Gary, Indiana, that hosted Christmas-carol karaoke one morning. Some will find Reppe’s roller coaster of cranky, comical, poignant moments maudlin; others who enjoy real-world slices of Americana or share his need to reconnect may find comfort or even healing.