Tintypes, the Ring Theater’s first play of the fall season, is marketed as a “nostalgic revue” and as a “patriotic all-American” musical. Presented as part of Celebrating American Democracy and Diversity, the political movement on campus, Tintypes is a varied representation of America pre-World War I.
The play follows a hapless Charlie Chaplin-like immigrant (Chris Teustch) as he travels through turn-of-the-century America meeting various period celebrities like annoying diva Ana Held (Brittany Daley), political activist Emma Goldman (Samantha Stiglitz) and even then-President Teddy Roosevelt (Nick Wishnatzski). But this play belongs to the young black hired woman Susannah (Ericka Dorfler), who climbs the social ladder from factory worker to Vaudeville singer. Aside from this, there is no real plot to this play, but there are a series of amusing silent vignettes that serve to provide comic relief between the variously themed scenes.
The set consisted of six bookshelves stuffed with an assortment of nostalgic items thrown together from the prop room that makes the stage look like a Cracker Barrel without the tables, but reversed it revealed a charming Main Street U.S.A. accompanied by a big city backdrop. It’s hard to argue with the music of this revue since most in this play was lifted from popular plays from 1891 to 1920. These songs move at a brisk pace sometimes without a breath between them, let alone a transition. While there are several legitimate showstoppers, there are also some points that bring the play to a screeching halt (almost anytime our protagonist sings) – between these extremes the play seems to coast on nostalgia of our pre-9/11 innocence.
The play is mildly funny, due in part to Teutsch’s excellent pantomime skills; the strobe light simulating the silent film reel was particularly clever effect. However, the vaudeville segment in the second act almost makes one wish the concession stand sold healthier food during intermission.
True to it’s marketing; this play is unabashedly patriotic with almost a third of the songs dealing with love of America. However, coincidence or not, amid the classic songs a very subtle partisan message beyond apple pie and flag waving was quite apparent. Maybe as a reviewer I am just reading too much into a benign play that is completely performed on a surface level, but I challenge you to see if this partisan message is more than hundreds of political messages subconsciously imprinted to my brain due to the week of debate madness.
Upcoming performance dates are Oct. 6 – 9 at 8:00 p.m. with matinees on Oct. 9 at 2:00 p.m. Admission is $16 for weeknights and matinees; $18 for Friday and Saturday nights. Seniors, UM Faculty, Staff and Alumni Admission are $14 for weeknights and matinees; $16 for Friday and Saturday nights. UM Student Admission is $8 for weeknights and matinees $10 for Friday and Saturday nights, free show for students is on Tuesday, Oct 5.
Johnathan Twiggar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.