In a country where an African-American has just been elected president, how stinging can a burlesque satirizing the unjust legacy of our white European founders be? The answer, found in Robert Honeywell’s Lord Oxford, is not very.
The play imagines an America in 2008 where Native Americans, former slaves, and the British are in charge of colonial “rebels” (read: Caucasians). In this universe, the titular Lord (played with maniacal impishness by Honeywell) presides over an educational TV show that’s propaganda for the still-ruling British crown. Accompanying Lord Oxford on his broadcast are four women—each representing a different immigrant stereotype (Gyda Arber and Audrey Crabtree are choice as the German and Irish, respectively). They offer up songs (artfully composed by Honeywell and Matt Van Brink) and stories about their countries and experiences in North America. While they perform, a new actor learns the ropes—he portrays figures from American history who meet altered fates (Sally Hemmings kills Jefferson here).
Flitting from moment to moment, the play’s points are unmistakable, but even with its game cast, Lord Oxford feels as if it’s too much, too late.