Two inventors and a president walk into the woods…

Innovation versus business versus government: this is the basis of the play “Camping with Henry and Tom” now playing at the Red Barn Theatre. It’s a thoughtful discussion about core American issues among three iconic figures, Henry Ford, President Warren G. Harding and Thomas Edison. The result is a witty, funny and thoughtful look at American ideals without being irreverent.

What if three American icons crashed their Model T and were stuck for hours alone in the woods? Playwright Mark St. Germain took the premise from an actual camping trip made by the two inventors, added the president and used it to create the unlikely scenario. Isolated and alone, it was inevitable they would tackle issues such as death, money and politics.

Michael McCabe delivers a sensitive and unambitious President Harding, who cannot help the dying deer the Model T ran into, “I don’t have enough killer instinct,” but acts as protector against outside forces, the wolves. It’s an ironic portrayal of the government as the hapless, unwilling participant in important matters.

Barry Tarallo seems flawless as the ruthless businessman Henry Ford as he says, “We are machines on 10 toes.” Ford and the president’s exchanges address the biggest issue in America, business versus government, as Ford says, “I wanna knock the rust off this government.” But Ford also reminds the President, “Remember the capital is D.C., not Wall Street,” as he tries to lobby and black mail the president for his own dirty wants and desires.

The delight of the play is the curmudgeon Thomas Edison played by Richard Grusin. He claims to be Switzerland ,“neutral and cold,” and the father of invention is there to remind the audience, “This is not a social situation” among the three men. Mulling his aging body and realizing even Jesus Christ can’t save any of them, Edison’s one-liners are the comic relief to the underbelly of the American ego.

The play resonates with themes still echoing today in American society and politics. With Gary McDonald’s outstanding backdrop, a beautifully painted woodland scene, “Camping with Henry and Tom” delivers a smart and entertaining night at the theater. For tickets contact or call 305-296-9911

“Camping with Henry and Tom”

Red Barn Theatre

Through April 15

We’re toymakers, Henry, that’s all we are.    Richard Grusin, as Thomas Edison.

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