Thursday, June 26, 2014

"The Totalitarians" at Woolly Mammoth Theater in Washington, political satire with four characters

Tonight, I saw a performance of “The Totalitarians” at Woolly Mammoth Theater in downtown Washington DC (link), running about 150 minutes with intermission. 
The political comedy is by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, and the performance is conducted by Robert O’Hara.
The play covers a lot of ground with just four characters and spectacular stage sets.  It supposes that a candidate for governor of Nebraska, Penelope Easter (Emily Townley), somewhat a Sarah Pailn type and appealing to Tea Party sorts of people, would turn the state into a separate fascist country.  As such, the play seems to be an allusion to at least two recent films, “Nebraska” (Movies, Nov. 23, 2013) and “Game Change” (the later is an HBO film on Sarah Palin’s candidacy, Movies blog, March 11, 2012).

It starts with Jeffrey (Sean Meehan) and Francine (Dawn Ursula), a mixed race couple.  Francine is already working on Penny’s campaign as manager.  It seems that Penny and Francine have a near lesbian coupling.  In the meantime, Sean examines a young man Ben (Nocholas Loumos), in a partial set of a doctor’s office.  That scene is quite suggestive, with Jeffrey holding Ben’s hairy thighs, and then doing comedy on a rather indelicate exam.  Ben’s appearance is a mix of paradoxes:  clean-cut but with misplaced tattoos; strong and lean and yet with a tiny paunch.  Jeffrey doesn’t tell Ben that he has cancer.  The doctor’s office has an interesting chart showing melanoma. Ben gradually confronts Jeffrey with Penny’s (his own mother’s) evil intentions.  In the meantime, a mildly homoerotic bond develops. 

The comedy and satire build up to a rather gruesome climax, with very good stage effects for blood.
I guess you could call this a true satire.
The theater lobby had a lot more props, showing the clutter of a typical political candidate’s campaign office.  It makes running for office (and begging for other people’s money) look like silly business.  Better to remain a blogger and journalist.

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