A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE
Man, it’s so hard to be funny about politics right now. The reality has rather overtaken the joke, you know? There is literally nothing more farcical, at this moment in 2016, as what journalists must report with straight fucking faces. So I felt for the cast of The Political Cabaret, a sketch comedy/improv show currently playing at Spotlighters (it’s a Spotlighters, Cohesion, Baltimore Improv Group joint venture). I mean, this election season you could literally take transcripts from Trump interviews off YouTube and stage them, and the audience would be rolling in the aisles. Maybe that’s his genius, I don’t know. To inhabit the parody before anyone else gets the chance to make it. If he wasn’t so deadly serious about himself…but he is.
That being said, I think it’s to the cast’s credit that they find some fresh shots to aim at these stinking fish in a barrel. The contributions from Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) are especially welcome – their style is energetic and clever. They’re pros, they’re quick, and they keep things moving without getting bogged down (as improv, charming as it may be, has a tendency to skew). The running gag throughout the evening, a mock election season complete with three partyfied candidates, attack ads, town halls, and all the rest, was a fun hook. Ti Coleman has a sharp, droll way about them, and their “Leanne Rimes” character, the Democratic candidate from Texas (you never know) was hilarious. I also liked a pointed sketch featuring Rasheed Green, John Windmueller, and Michael Harris (who was also a great moderator) skewering those shouty T.V. arguing shows that give me a headache.
Of course, everyone was waiting for our nominees themselves, namely Hillary “Fucking E-mails” Clinton and Donald “I Can’t Find My Thumbs” Trump played by Caitlin Carbone and Zach Bopst, respectively. Bopst, especially, has a ton of fun with Trump and turns in a pretty credible impression. Carbone was little stiff as Hillary, but it’s damned hard to do a good Hillary, isn’t it? I liked their “Romeo and Julian” bit near the end (which is maybe a sly community in-joke seeing as Carbone is always playing male roles on the Baltimore Shakespeare circuit?). Brad Norris hits on everything he does (LOVED his overly ardent Bernie-based seduction game) but his gun store owner’s “background check” is particularly side-splitting. The musical selections are also a nice touch: watch for a delightfully deadpan Jim Knost doing a version of “Razzle Dazzle” from Chicago, and Alice Stanley’s rueful millennial voter’s take on Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why”.
I do wish the show had been a little more polished, and a little less rushed. It felt under developed and under rehearsed, and yes, I’m not a complete moron, I do understand the way that improv is supposed to work, and that’s not what I mean. I think the comedy could have been sharper and the sketches tighter (there are a few moments when we lost the thread entirely, most notably in the middle of a song). But I wasn’t expecting Capitol Steps, and, for what The Political Cabaret, is, it’s cute, fun and a welcome diversion.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s nice to review something a little different, and The Political Cabaret is amusing late-evening fare. The improv is especially well-done, and the stretching by known actors on the small theater scene is cool to see. The comedy could have bitten harder and the show strays messy here and there, but nothing major. If you’re into this kind of thing, see it.
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