The meeting of the masterminds

Jared Morgan

Danica McKellar, from “The Wonder Years,” is playing Cleopatra. Photos Courtesy of Thomas Engstrom.
Danica McKellar, from “The Wonder Years,” is playing Cleopatra. Photos Courtesy of Thomas Engstrom.

The revival of the series, “Meeting of the Minds,” currently running at Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood, is an exercise in what could be, rather than what is.

Originally dubbed, “the ultimate talk show,” “Meeting of the Minds,” features today’s best in Hollywood taking on the roles of historical figures and debating those figures’ personal perspectives on social issues.

And each month, “Meeting of the Minds,” will host new characters and new dialogue, so that audience-goers will not be seeing the same show twice.

The first episode ran Sunday and hosted Cleopatra, Thomas Aquinas, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Paine discussing issues like slavery and womens’ rights.

The actors, some of whom you would recognize from television shows like “Entourage” (Gary Cole), and “The Wonder Years” (Danica McKellar), read their parts rather than acting them, though they do show real passion toward their subject matter.

The “Meeting of the Minds,” as it is currently staged and produced, plays much more as an educational outing than as a diverting and entertaining night at the theater.

At times, the reading is insightful and thought-provoking; at other times there are long stretches of dialogue that seem to be the simple recitation of the history of the characters’ lives.

This could be because the original idea for the series was to have every scripted word as part of an actual quotation from that historical figure.

“Meeting of the Minds,” was the brainchild of Steve Allen, creator of, “The Tonight Show.” It was initially created for television broadcast, where it ran from 1977 to 1981.

During that time, Allen himself would interview the notable historical figures in a talk show format. Now, it figures much the same way, but with an actor playing Allen as the host.

The goal of the production is to bring history to life, but the historical content seems to leave little room for humor or true conflict.

The current production is an excellent way for those who are not history buffs to gain access to the ways in which history and its leaders compare with our current modern state.

However, the average CSUN history major may find oneself frustrated with the overall oversimplification of history, and with the show’s lack of a deeper dialogue between the ages.