Play explores plight of low-wage workers

November 9, 2015

Actors Mariah Waite, Ryan Zera, Larisa Polk and Devin Thomas star in the HCC Theater Department production of "American Hero."HCC students Larisa Polk and Ryan Zera play "sandwich artists" in the HCC Theater Department production of "American Hero."

The "American Hero" in Bess Wohl's play of that title refers, literally, to the name of a chain of toasted sub shops.  

But it also applies, ironically, to the main characters, who have been hired to make sandwiches at one recently opened franchise.  

"The play is really about these three struggling Americans trying to survive in a world that doesn't value their work," says theater professor Pat Sandoval, who is directing American Hero this fall at Holyoke Community College. "It's about minimum wage workers, but it's also about their relationships and how they help one another."

The HCC Theater Department will present American Hero Nov. 12-14, and Nov. 19-21, at 7:30 p.m., in the Leslie Phillips Theater, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Nov. 21. The Friday, Nov. 20, performance will be ASL interpreted.

Tickets are $10 (general admission), $8 (students and seniors), and $5 (HCC students, faculty and staff).  

The play explores the plight of three "sandwich artists" (their corporate job title) as they are forced to deal with a confluence of escalating challenges, including an absentee manager, unruly customers, and dwindling supplies of sandwich meat.  

On top of that, they have to manage their own struggles. There is Jamie, a high-spirited 30-something single mother (played by HCC student Larisa Polk, of Springfield); Ted, a 40-something family man recently downsized from Bank of America (Ryan Zera, of Easthampton); and Sheri (Mariah White, of Palmer), a shy, exhausted 18-year-old who works two low-wage jobs to help support her sick father.  

"In many ways, it's a sad story, but not really," says Sandoval. "It's a comedy, but it's a comedy with heart. It's a comedy with intelligence. It's a comedy about American ingenuity."  

Sandoval said she chose the play for several reasons: one, to support HCC's "One Campus, One Theme" initiative, which seeks to incorporate food-related subjects throughout academic courses and campus activities; two, she likes to feature plays by female playwrights whenever possible; and finally ...  

"I really liked the story," she says, which she believes will resonate with anyone who has ever held a job at the bottom wrung of the corporate ladder with no clear path for advancement.  

"The characters lives are not unlike those of our students," Sandoval says, "and so many others."

PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Left) Actors Mariah Waite, Ryan Zera, Larisa Polk and Devin Thomas star in the HCC Theater Department production of "American Hero." (Right) HCC students Larisa Polk and Ryan Zera play "sandwich artists" in the HCC Theater Department production of "American Hero."

 
 

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