The Sacramento Theatre Company is premiering an original script by a young writer who attended high school and college locally, and is now an artistic associate at the B Street Theatre.
Sean Patrick Nill’s “Kings of America” is what they call a dramedy, which is to say it’s basically a comedy containing some dramatic underpinnings. It’s about a teenage boy who hears “Hail to the Chief” in his dreams.
He doesn’t fantasize about moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue himself. No, this kid is working through some unfinished emotional business regarding his beloved father, who has abruptly disappeared from family life. That’s really eating at the kid. His grades are tanking, and he talks back to his teachers, and his mom.
But when he goes to sleep at night, he dreams that he’s chatting with – and getting advice from – American presidents as far back as George Washington, and as recent as George W. Bush, figures out of history that he used to discuss with his dad. This provides a golden opportunity for 26-year-old playwright Nill, who has fun poking at the reputations of the men who’ve worked in the Oval Office
One dream involves a certain peanut-growing president from Georgia, who is arguably more appreciated now than when he was as a one-term president forty years ago.
Boy: You’re President Carter?
Carter: You can call me Jimmy.
Boy: You look s-o-o-o old.
Carter: Well, people like me now I’m old.
And since teenage boys tend to be hormone-fueled, this kid’s mind goes straight to you-know-what when President Kennedy materializes.
Boy: (blurting it out) You did it with Marilyn Monroe, right?
JFK: That question’s been on your mind, hasn’t it?
But the funniest episode involves George Washington – who turns out to be stiff and formal and obsessed with rules – and Bill Clinton, who in this play is portrayed in his casual Bubba persona.
Washington: (Archly) President Clinton!
Clinton: (Sleepily): Buh-buh-buh… I’m here!
Washington: Rule No. 6, Mr. President. Sleep not when others speak, sit not when other’s stand.
Clinton: I heard, I heard, I heard…
Washington: Rule No. 10…
Clinton: I’d love a Dr. Pepper…
These Presidential anecdotes serve as a nice counterbalance to a fairly conventional story involving adolescent awkwardness and angst.
Sean Patrick Nill has written a nimble, entertaining script that’s easy to enjoy, and doesn’t take itself too seriously, and those are worthy traits in an aspiring playwright. “Kings of America” is a promising start, and offers a welcome contrast to the holiday season fare that will soon take over the stage at most local theaters.
“Kings of America” continues through Dec. 10 at the Sacramento Theater Company.