By Toby Zinman
FOR THE INQUIRER
The opening-night audience — longtime fans of 1812’s annual news-and-views send-up This Is the Week That Is — cheers to see Patsy (Jen Childs) back in South Philly, wearing her pink Eagles sweatshirt, giving Washington a piece of her mind. When she announces that 1812 Productions is the only company devoted to comedy in the whole country, she offers an aside, “I know, I know. Can yez stand it?”
All the expectable, mockable suspects are rounded up for our amusement: the Republican presidential candidates, the Occupiers, Greece, superheroes, the Republican presidential candidates, President Obama, Michelle Obama, Wall Street bankers, spin doctors, the Republican presidential candidates, Harvard professors, newscasters, television talk shows, and, wait, did I mention Republican presidential candidates?
The terrific cast — Scott Greer, Dave Jadico, Susan Riley Stevens, Jennifer Childs (the show’s director), Don Montrey, Aime Kelly, Reuben Mitchell, and Tabitha Allen (who also serves as musical director) — are all contributing writers as well as performers.
There are moments of audience participation; the first was to find a presidential candidate for 2012. An unsmiling but funny man who said his name was Johnson (surely we’ve been there before, friends), when asked where he was from, replied, “Row E.” During intermission, the cast created a whole presidential campaign using photos of Johnson.
Major highlights of the evening are the Oklahoma! parody (“The Busboy and the Banker Should Be Friends” and “I Can’t Say No” about credit card shopping), and a noirish spoof of a Bogart detective movie in which a woman named Polly Tics reports that someone has stolen the Constitution, and the people who have it are going to amend it until it’s unrecognizable.
There’s a nifty rhyming Dr. Seuss skit (with excellent graphics by Jorge Cousineau) and a Gilbert and Sullivan mashup (best song: “Three Little Maids From the Tea Party”).
The best falling-down-laughing moment: Greer playing Richard Simmons (you gotta see it to believe it), although Greer is a pleasure to watch whatever he’s doing, especially as the opinion Pole.
Two newcomers to 1812 are major acquisitions: Reuben Mitchell, who has Obama’s speech patterns down pat and then does a Henry Louis Gates knockoff that is simply jaw-droppingly weird; and gorgeous Aime Kelly, who can really really sing and act — do not miss her as the tipsy host of a talk show (“Hey, Bitches”).
Our unfunny world has provided plenty of material for this funny company — just the ticket when the real news gets you down.
1812 Productions at Plays & Players Theatre, 1712 Delancey St. Through Dec. 31. Tickets $20-$36. Information: 215-592-9560 or www.1812productions.org