Saturday, July 26, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

review: THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS

Our unfunny world has provided plenty of material for this funny company's spoof of the news and views-just the ticket when the real stuff gets you down, says Toby Zinman.

review: THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS

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.

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1812 Productions at Plays & Players Theatre, 1712 Delancey St. Through Dec. 31. Tickets $20-$36. Information: 215-592-9560 or www.1812productions.org

 

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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