Bill Rosenfield’s Another America is not quite what I expected – which, it turns out, is the whole point. Inspired by the 1999 documentary film True Fans by Dan Austin, it’s not explicitly billed as a political play, but it’s easy to assume that it will be, especially for a British audience who’ve heard little else from the USA for the past few years. As with the UK and Brexit, it can be easy – especially if you spend any time on social media – to assume that everyone must have chosen a side and be constantly at odds with those who disagree. In reality, that’s not the case, and as this play ably demonstrates, there are millions of Americans who are just getting on with their lives, fighting their own private battles and enjoying their individual successes. And while Rosenfield’s play can’t quite stretch to showing us all of those people, it certainly gives it a go, with 36 characters played by just three actors.
Basketball and diehard Utah Jazz fan Dan Austin (Marco Young) convinces his brother Jared (Rosanna Suppa) and best friend Clint Ewell (Jacob Lovick) to accompany him on a “pilgrimage” across the country from Venice, California to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Strapped for cash and with only their bikes to get them there, the trio are forced to rely on the kindness of strangers to keep them on the road, with each of their new friends invited to write some words of wisdom on the basketball they carry with them. The three actors take it in turns (sometimes more willingly than others) to play these additional characters, switching accent, personality and gender with impressive ease as we travel across the country. Some of the impact of this is inevitably lost on a non-American audience unfamiliar with the geography or regional idiosyncrasies of the USA, but the voiceover provided by the three travellers provides enough exposition to at least give us a rough idea where we are and what type of town it is.
The steady pace, minimalist set design and absence of much drama in the plot means that in different hands, the play might not work. As it is, Jacob Lovick, Rosanna Suppa and Marco Young really bring it to life, engaging in a very natural way with both the audience and each other even before the play begins. Their friendship is completely believable, to the point that there are moments where it’s not completely clear if they’re still on script or just messing with each other. The result is a gently meandering production from director Joseph Winters, which doesn’t get the pulse racing (with the exception of one unexpected moment at the end of Act 1) but does provide an interesting snapshot of a USA most of us have never seen or even knew existed.
Oh, and if you’re not a basketball fan? It doesn’t matter, because ultimately, just as it’s not a play about politics, nor is this a play about basketball. The sport and its hallowed Hall of Fame might provide the trio with the push they need to start moving, but in the end they’re each travelling towards their own personal destination – and none of those destinations have anything to do with Utah Jazz. This is a story about regular people finding their way in life, and whatever our political, sport or other allegiances, that’s something we can all relate to.
Another America continues at Park Theatre until 30th April.