TimeLine Theatre Presents WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME Review — Story of the Moment

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We are in the midst of a flashback. Heidi (Beth Lacke) has taken us back in time to when she was a teenager competing in a Constitutional debate. She is clearly knowledgeable on the amendments and has a response for every question the Legionnaire (Raymond Fox) throws her way. She weaves in and out of defensive arguments and even connects them to her personal life – always with a smile to the audience as she realizes that she nails it yet again. Sporting a red blazer with a blue and white button down, Heidi is even dressing the part. The tone is light, and she is clearly having a blast living out the memory.

At a key moment, Heidi pauses her arguments. Up until this point, she has defended the document – describing its overall magic. However, the arguments start to become too personal. After asking the Legionnaire to pause the clock, she announces to the audience that she can no longer perform this memory in the shoes of her 15-year-old self. The Constitution does not protect everyone and has often left women to fend for themselves in harsh situations. Heidi’s tone darkens, and her voice becomes a bit quieter as the personal anecdotes shift to memories of how the Constitution failed her grandmother.

Heidi informs us that in order to protect her childhood essence, she must perform the rest of the memory as her present-day self. She takes off her blazer and lets her hair down, slowly transforming back into a woman almost 50-years of age.

As she shakes off the endearing teenage character, it becomes clear that we are about to experience another major tonal shift. Heidi looks us the audience in the eye – creating a personal, intimate moment as she reveals her inner truths and opinions about the historical document’s failures. This writer encourages audience members to buckle up, because the story is a roller-coaster of a ride, and this is certainly not the only moment that intentionally does not sugar coat the shortcomings of not only the Constitution, but also this country.

TimeLine Theatre presents What the Constitution Means to Me

Written by Heidi Schreck, the play examines four generations of women – beginning with Heidi’s exploration of her fifteen-year-old self as she earns her college tuition through a Constitutional debate competition. For much of the story, Heidi jumps across time and space – sharing windows into not only her past, but also that of her mom and grandmother as she unpacks the many layers of the historical document. However, Schreck does not stop there.

In the investigation of the Constitution’s impacts on everyone in the theater, Heidi also drops the character completely – allowing us to meet Beth Lacke, the actor bringing the character to life. The ending product is a story that not only ignores time, but also one that shatters the fourth wall completely.

Helen Young’s direction seems to help Lacke create a relationship with the audience early in the performance. If you are looking closely, you might even notice that the team does not bring the lights fully down until further into the story – not only allowing Lacke to create relationships with the audience, but also the possibility for audience members to witness each other. The audience almost becomes a fourth character in the play, and you might just find that this invites Schreck’s questions to resonate even deeper.

Relevant Story of Today

Not only does the play look back at the past, but also forward through a lively debate between Lacke and a teenage performer (Makalah Simpson at this Opening Performance). Much like Heidi’s past self, Lacke and Simpson are invited to debate the effectiveness of the Constitution – however, this time the lights are completely up, and we as an audience are active participants.

Fox (also as himself) assumes the role of the moderator, and Lacke and Simpson play off each other with ease, making it clear that they both came to win. The two actors move throughout the space – even delivering their speeches amongst the audience seats. We are invited to cheer when we agree and groan when we do not, adding to the overall chaos in the room.

You might find that Schreck’s script once again surprises as we see each actor in the space simply play themselves on stage – a choice that is not often seen in live theater. If you are like this writer, you might also find that this choice drives the underlying message home. The audience and actors find themselves brought into the same story, and we are invited to ask the same questions right alongside the characters and actors: How effective is the Constitution, and how do we move forward from here?

Full of hope, humor, and truth, What the Constitution Means to Me is a story of the moment.


Run Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes without intermission

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May 10 – June 24, 2023


TimeLine Theatre
615 W. Wellington Ave.



For more information and tickets visit the Timeline Theatre website.

Photos: Brett Beiner Photography

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago.

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Lauren Katz

About the Author: Lauren Katz

Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.

Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Lauren Katz.

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