Debating Whether the US Constitution Should Be Abolished

The film version of Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me has all the stage show’s strengths — and flaws.

From What the Constitution Means to Me (2020), dir. Marielle Heller (image courtesy Amazon)

Coming in the wake of its successful, Tony- and Pulitzer-nominated run off and on Broadway over the course of 2018–2019, a filmed version of the stage show What the Constitution Means to Me is now streaming. Directed by Marielle Heller, it faithfully transplants the original play, though without much cinematic flourish. What you think of it is therefore heavily dependent on how well the show appeals to you.

In the show, playwright and lead actor Heidi Schreck recounts her time debating the US Constitution as a high schooler. Reflecting as an adult, she runs through the various virtues and many, many flaws of the Constitution, building up to a debate with a contemporary high-schooler over whether it should be abolished. (The film is missing the participatory aspect of the audience judging the winner of that debate.) Though winningly performed by Schreck, the fact that the show is so forthright about the fundamental inequities of the US and yet still considers this structure up for debate speaks to a blinkered worldview, which is quite disappointing.

What the Constitution Means to Me is available on Amazon Prime.

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