At times, furtive silhouettes stamp the red velvet curtain. In the middle of whispers, a more distinct phrase returns like a mantra: “Relax, everything is fine. Relax, everything is fine!”

I’m in the front row. On the chair on my right, dusty and empty like the other hundred, lies the program of the play that is being performed tonight. Tonight’s show: the decline of the American Dream.

A man looks at me over his glasses in front of an ice cream store. Mission Beach, San Diego. © Cyril Abad / Studio Hans Lucas

Months after the shocking electoral victory of Donald J. Trump, I believe something is broken (or breaking) in America. Donald Trump has redefined the “American Dream” around three pillars: interventionism, protectionism and (faux) populism. This triumvirate is likely to put an end to the country’s long-held, hope-inducing momentum and will destroy the few remaining illusions about America held by the rest of the world.

Growing up in France, I was very inspired by the writings of Douglas Kennedy. After reading his book In God’s Country: Travels in the Bible Belt, USA, I was motivated to retrace his footsteps across this (once?) great land. I was first focused in studying the religious communities in America (something I am still pursuing), but as I traveled, my goal shifted. With these images, my hope is to reveal the final moments of the American Dream through poetic (and sometimes comical) sketches made without special effects or actors. Using the language of street photography and showing the quotidian life in America, I wonder if this is the last performance, a desperate impulse before an ignoble end.

An old gentleman taking a nap on China Beach. San Francisco, California. © Cyril Abad / Studio Hans Lucas

Still, while we have some hope left, let us thank the cast for its performance and unfailing commitment to perpetuating the memory of America’s past glory. It is worth remembering that these actors are authentic American citizens caught on the spot and playing their parts naturally. The whole team of “the theater at the end of the dream” wishes you a wonderful time.

The show must go on!

—Cyril Abad