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Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play Unearths ‘Drop-Dead’ Humor Within Discomfort

March 31st, 2023 | By Caitlin Hornik

Larissa FastHorse is making history as the first female Native American playwright on Broadway with her Thanksgiving Play. “It’s happy-said,” FastHorse said of the milestone. “I’m embracing the happiness with being here — that we do have a Native American-written play by a woman on Broadway.”

In the latest episode of The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal, viewers hear from FastHorse and members of the cast and creative team, who bring audiences behind the scenes of the new comedy.

“For those who don’t know what they’re getting into, The Thanksgiving Play is f*cking hilarious,” said director Rachel Chavkin. “It’s just drop-dead funny.” Chavkin confessed she’s come close to wetting herself from laughter during rehearsals.

Still, not everyone in the company was enamored with the play’s humor from the start.

Scott Foley—who returns to the Main Stem after a 20-year hiatus with FastHorse’s play—admitted he wasn’t initially sold on it. “When I first read the script, I hated it,” he told Fadal. But, he handed the script off to his wife: “She said, ‘It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever read.’” So Foley approached the script with a fresh perspective. That’s when the actor (who has risen to fame on TV’s Felicity and Scandal) realized he was actually a bit fearful of a play that takes big risks in its humor.

“The play is about four well-intentioned people trying to devise a historically accurate Thanksgiving play for elementary school kids,” Foley said. “That’s a difficult task in this climate and that’s what they’re wrestling with.”

“I was worried because [in] the climate we live in you have to listen a lot and keep your mouth closed a lot and this play is about characters who feel that they’ve listened a lot and done the work and don’t keep their mouths closed, and it was scary. I was scared by it,” Foley continued.

And it still scares him. “Is what the play is saying OK to say? Can we do that? Is the character I’m playing a bad guy for trying to do the right thing, even though he might not be doing the right thing or doing things the right way?” he said. “There are some extremely uncomfortable moments.”

While he doesn’t have the answers, he trusts FastHorse and her expertise.

In FastHorse’s hands, discomfort leads to hilarity. Cast member D’Arcy Carden, who broke out on television’s The Good Place and makes her Broadway debut with this production, added, “It’s not just a straight comedy, even though it is so funny. There’s one million layers.”

As co-star Katie Finneran said, “I get to ask sensitive questions and I get to risk being wrong with someone who knows the answer.”

Ultimately, FastHorse’s characters are the stand-ins for any person who is trying to figure it all out. “I hope the audience members see themselves in the play,” said co-star Chris Sullivan. “I hope the play starts conversations about what they have been told about the beginning of this country and the origins of the Thanksgiving tradition.” After all, comedy can lower people’s walls and create open minds; with laughter (especially of this “drop-dead” kind) comes learning.

Despite his early misgivings, Foley is leaning into the farce and is thrilled to be back on Broadway with this specific piece. As he said, “It’s a crazy show.”

This week’s episode of The Broadway Show features red carpet interviews from the opening nights of Sweeney Todd and Bad Cinderella. Paul Wontorek sat down with Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman to discuss their latest musical collaboration, Some Like It Hot. Viewers can also get to know the cast and creative team behind Life of Pi. To close out, the episode highlights Kids’ Night on Broadway and the newly redesigned New York City logo.


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