Make fun of already ridiculous politics? 1812 Productions' 'Week' tries, with spotty results

WEEK01
(Left to right:) Rob Tucker, Jennifer Childs, Sean Close, Dave Jadico, Jenson Titus Lavallee, and Susan Riley Stevens in 1812 Productions’ “This Is the Week That Is,” through Dec. 31.

One minute, it’s President Trump insulting Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) as “Pocahontas” in the company of Navajo code-talkers. The next, it’s a news flash about the latest high-profile, about-to-be-canned sexual harasser of the day.

Our politics has become spectacle, alternately enthralling and horrifying. In veering toward self-parody, it comes close to defeating satire. Making fun of the already nonsensical or grotesque is at once too easy and too hard.

1812 Productions, the city’s comedy theater troupe, tackles the problem head on in its annual, evolving-with-the-news show, This Is The Week That Is, through Dec. 31 at Plays and Players Theatre. But it doesn’t quite solve it. Directed by Jennifer Childs, the two-act show runs two hours and 15 minutes, and, though packed with humor both high and low, it feels saggy and long.

Blame the times and the writing (by the performers, with an assist from “head news writer” Don Montrey), but certainly not the cast.

Led by Childs (the company’s producing artistic director), Dave Jadico (who does a wicked impression of Jerry Seinfeld explaining gerrymandering), and Sean Close (whose endearingly malapropism-prone George W. Bush hosts the game show And We Thought You Were Bad), the ensemble is as exuberantly energetic as ever.

The versatile Susan Riley Stevens brings soul-searing conviction to a weather woman who promises her straying husband arctic weather in the bedroom. 1812 newcomers Rob Tucker, the show’s music director, and Jenson Titus Lavallee score in a parody targeting both the Trump administration’s revolving door and maudlin memorial sequences at awards shows.

While Tucker dolefully sings “One Moment in Time,” a list of the fired and resigned led by Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus scrolls down a screen, and Lavallee, wearing black tights and wielding red crepe, prances with increasing fervor around the stage. (Jorge Cousineau did the video and sound design, and Jillian Keys the costumes.)

This year, unlike last, there are no wild Donald Trump impersonations — or Childs’ sassy Hillary Clinton — to buoy the show. But Trump’s long shadow dominates the proceedings nonetheless. “It feels like he’s everywhere,” one character says. “It’s exhausting” is the riposte. Phones buzzing with news alerts inspire dread but are impossible to ignore.

The other major through-line is, unsurprisingly, the sudden bursting of the sexual-harassment-and-assault dam. Sure, the behavior itself may be unfunny, but the societal reaction seems ripe for edgy humor. The show takes the obvious potshots at Trump’s Access Hollywood vulgarity and dismisses Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore with a Lolita reference.  Childs and Riley, as two “woke” women streaming internet commentary from a retirement community, complain about mansplaining, manterrupting, and manspreading. Then their male colleagues offer a predictable demonstration.

The inventive first-act closer features a gaggle of lower-tier, uncinematic superheroes — including “Not Racist Man” — who may join forces to save the political day. But like the rest of this well-meaning, intermittently funny show, the sketch begs to be sharper and tighter.

 

 

This Is The Week That Is. Through Dec. 31, presented by 1812 Productions at Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place. Tickets: $28-42. Information: www.1812productions.org or 215-592-9560.