Unconventional wisdom

Make Nice My Ass: The Republican Welcome Wagon -- The Variety Show

Vital Theatre Company
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Deborah S. Greenhut

Vital Theatre Company picked up the gauntlet thrown by His Honor, Ed Koch, presenting an evening of "entertainment with a political edge" by Vital’s "rarely-Republican artists." Hey! Somebody had to do it.

On August 12 (a new program was performed on several Thursdays), a star-spangled cabaret fitted with candlelight, tables, and comfortably spaced seats welcomed the audience to Vital’s vaudevillian program of sketches, songs, and jokes -- writing that ranged from amusing to angry. The audience enjoyed the observations and segues offered by affable, tuxedoed M.C. Ron McClary, who romped, notes in hand, quite comfortably through such statistics as the per capita allotments for terrorism received by New York vs. the bigger bucks reserved for -- Gee, who woulda guessed it folks? -- Florida and Wyoming. Intolerance of liberals and their issues were often the focus of the evening, particularly in such send-ups as "Bubba, Bob and Flora," a Republican field trip to Greenwich Village performed serviceably by Stacy Melich as Flora, Mike Teele as Bubba, Sara Donaldson as Babe, and Josh Cole as Hunk. Intolerance was always the butt of the evening. "Ticketmaster," written by Mark Loewenstern and Mike Teele, and performed as a voiceover by Gary Littman, was interspersed among several skits. This sketch took to task various conservative "ism’s" by describing unacceptable Broadway hits such as A Raisin in the Sun, Aida, Assassins, and I Am My Own Wife, among others. An angry monolog satirizing the "Promise Keepers" (Victor Verhaeghe) provided a funny but dramatic high point of the evening, though it seemed to stop short rather than ending. Craig Fitzpatrick’s "The List" announced the top eleven rejected convention themes. His presentation was funnier than the list. The first half of the evening maintained an angry bite. There was laughter, but much of the humor spoke to the audience’s frustration -- Patriot Act fallout, if you will.

The second half opened with a laconic magician, Brian Marks, whose timely patter included a reference to that day’s announcement by New Jersey’s outgoing [sic] outed Governor, James McGreevey. Describing himself as the "Christopher Columbus of sexuality," Marks offered his take on Jewish lonely guy schtick, accompanied by coin and card tricks. Would such an evening have been complete without a sneak peak at "The Poetry of Saddam" Hussein? Glad you asked. Thanks to "ghost writer" Mark Loewenstern, such soon-to-be classics as "I’m a little despot short and stout" were exposed to the American public by Saddam stunt double David Shih. Those light lyrics were followed by the heaviest moment of the evening, called "Foreground/Background." Written by Andrea Lepcio and performed with suitable dread by Jackie Mazarella, the sketch exposed a major closet issue: "My Mother is a Republican." Worse yet, Mother has volunteered to work at the convention. This piece preached to the converted, offering an angry daughter’s desperate "solution" -- stop cleaning until August 30th! The concluding sketch, called "The Proposal," offered two abstinent youngsters, Jimmy Joe (Craig Bridger) and Susie Sue (Katie Acheson), in an unconventional take on marriage. (Hint: It’s gay now!) The waiter was played with gusto by author Matt Hoverman. A final list -- "Top Ten Movies to Masturbate To"-- might have been missed, though not the recurring voice of Ticketmaster that reminded the audience to celebrate artistic diversity while that was still possible. Music for the evening was cheerfully supplied by keyboardist, Bobby Nafarrete.

Additional credits included "Affairs-of-State Men": Mark Loewentstern, Mike Teele, and Erik Kever Ryle; Stage Management: Jaime Wiseman; and producer: Aimee Hayes.

Box Score:

Writing: 1/Music: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Deborah S. Greenhut