Albany Civic Theater – The Minutes – Theater Review

Written by on February 17, 2024

Albany Civic Theater’s The Minutes Turns Tedious Small Town Politics Into a Fun Night of Theater

Politics start at home and The Minutes, by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tracy Letts, explores how big egos in small town politics can have a lasting impact on our how we see our hometown and the stories we share about our perceived history.

Spending much of the 1990’s attending village and county board meetings myself, the boring and seemingly banal work of a local town council is hilariously, but yet realistically, explored in the play.  Adeptly directed by Brian Sheldon, The Minutes at Albany Civic Theater, tells the story of how the town council of Big Cherry operates.  The council tries to address important issues like:  What organizations get the stolen bicycles confiscated by the police? Should the local town fountain get completely remodeled so people living with disabilities can look into the depths of the fountain?  Would the town council support an Abraham Lincoln smackdown cage match to increase participation in the annual Big Cherry Heritage Festival?

As the play unfolds, it becomes apparent that something actually substantive unfolded at the previous council meeting and the minutes, read by the town clerk reveals a dark history of how Big Cherry got its name and how the founding of the town was not only a myth, but the truth is downright unpleasant and disturbing.

The Big Cherry town council members are played by a picture-perfect ensemble cast that show the eccentricities of each of their characters faultlessly, while not overdoing it and losing the main point of the play.  Alexandra Doggette plays Town Clerk Johnson with earnestness; Bill Douglas beautifully exposes the ugliness of Big Cherry as Town Councilman Carp in the most compelling scene of the play; Chris Foster commands the stage as Mayor Superba and delivers many of the play’s most compelling lines; Gary Hoffmann hilariously delivers a genius comedic performance as Councilman Oldfield; Samantha Miorin conveys the quirky, and possibly over medicated, workings of Councilwoman Matz; Aaron Moore fully inhabits Councilman Blake and his sincere delivery makes the proposed Lincoln smackdown cage match a highlight of the play; Shawn Morgan embodied Councilman Breeding so believably you felt as if he was an actual domineering town council member;  Dianne O’Neill’s Councilwoman Innes was a brilliant amalgamation of so many great comediennes – part Eva Gabor, part Eve Arden, and part Catherine O’Hara; Patrick White’s boisterous and larger than life portrayal of Councilman Assalone was spot on; Kevin O’Toole’s portrayal of newcomer Councilman Peel made Peel so likeable he helped the audience care about the motley crew of town politicians and the issues of the day.  O’Toole embodied a Jimmy Stewart vibe that was just brilliant and exactly what the play needed; and Ryan Palmer’s portrayal of Councilman Hanratty was just an absolute treat and delight to watch. Palmer was simply exquisite  – hitting every comedic moment with perfection and yet showing the humanity and pathetic-ness of his character when needed.

The crew should also be acknowledged for their great contributions:

Regina Baker (Stage Manager), Lisa Morgan (Costume Designer), Kassidi Jarvis (Lighting Design and Light Board Operator), Quinn Solace (Sound Board Operator), Set Construction (Josh Horowitz, Mike Mensching, Pete Thomas, Gary Hoffmann, Kassidi Jarvis, Adam M. Coons, and Michael McDermott).  Coons and McDermott created a great set with wonderful touches complete with an American flag, bathroom signs, vents, and a realistic town hall industrial tiled floor.

Barry Streifert was the sound designer.  The actual play itself had no music – just sounds of rain and electrical surges.  However, Barry and director Brian Sheldon did focus intentionally on the pre and post show music.   Sheldon had a general idea of what he wanted for the play, the spirit of Americana in general,  but gave Streifert creative space to design the music for the show.  Streifert started listening to a few musical pieces and said that “it all came together to reflect the State of the Nation as we live in it today and that same passion that people have about their roots, whether right or wrong.”

Streifert shared that he had selected Simon & Garfunkel’s America to “showcase the innocence and beauty of the country, and continued into This Land is Your Land.”  He also included American Idiot, “a song that reflects our current state how we absorb news, whether real or no so real, and how it shapes attitudes.“

Streifert considered a Toby Keith tune, especially considering Keith’s recent death.  “I really hesitated for a long time about Toby Keith, with his recent passing, but his words in Courtesy are just so appropriate to the time we are in, I took a shot, and my fellow techs on the show agreed. Beyonce’s Freedom and Chapman’s Revolution then turns the tide a bit, as strong songs about rising up and trying to balance the scales of justice.”

Also of note for the preshow music was Fight The Power by Public Enemy, which speaks for itself. Streifert’s final preshow selection from the popular TV show Unsolved Mysteries was selected as “A nod to one the characters as a bit of an inside joke to me, which is unveiled late in the show. And I always use an “end cap” song, slightly different from the others, as a trigger in case I or my Sound Operator, Quinn Solace on this show, is not in the booth for some reason, if we hear the trigger song, we know we’ve got about 2 minutes to get back to the sound board so things don’t run out.”

Streifert selected Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA for the final song of the actual play.   And then as a finish, in case the audience lingers long enough to hear it, the song blends into John Phillips Sousa’s The Washington Post.  Streifert felt that the piece “sounds to me so much like The Liberty Bell March, another of Sousa’s, which is also the main theme to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, I cut in a rubber chicken quack as a final cap, just as a joke for me.”  The entire playlist for the show includes:  Stars and Stripes Forever – John Phillips Sousa; America – Simon & Garfunkel; This Land is Your Land – Peter, Paul & Mary; For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield; American Idiot – Green Day; Courtesy of the Red White and Blue (The Angry American) – Toby Keith

Freedom – Beyonce; Talkin; Bout a Revolution – Tracy Chapman, The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia – Reba McEntire; Country Nation – Brad Paisley; American Pie – Shea Diamond; This Is America – Childish Gambino; Fight The Power – Public Enemy

and the Unsolved Mysteries Theme.

While The Minutes at Albany Civic Theater explores themes and topics that may be old hat for some, historical origins and how they are passed down or suppressed generation after generation, the play is a great reminder of how we all contribute to our local fabric and the role each of us plays.  Beyonce says it best in her song Freedom-  “Is it Truth You Seek?”  If you do, go see this play.

The Minutes is at Albany Civic Theater  (ACT) from February  Feb 16-18, 23-25, & Mar 1-3, 2024.  Showtimes are Friday & Saturday @ 7:30pm, Sunday @ 3pm

ACT is located at 235 Second Avenue, Albany, New York 12209

For tickets:

518-462-1297 or


Photo by David Quinones Jr.

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