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'Week That Is' finds the laughs in current events

The funny folks at Philly’s 1812 Productions are ready to fire their satirical darts once again.

IF THE "Daily Show," "The Colbert Report" and late-night gabfest monologues still don't quench your thirst for political and pop culture satire, you're in luck.

Thursday, the jolly jokesters at 1812 Productions will raise the curtain on their latest edition of "That Is the Week That Is." The plucked-from-the-headlines comedy revue runs through June 1 at Center City's Plays and Players Theatre.

For the uninitiated, the 7-year-old "TITWTI" is inspired by the early-1960s TV show, "That Was the Week That Was," the granddaddy of everything from the "Weekend Update" segment on "Saturday Night Live" to current programs hosted by the likes of Jon Stewart and Bill Maher.

"It's a political satire show based on current events," explained Don Montrey, the show's writer. "The first half of the show is pretty much sketches and musical parodies and satire, and the second part is the news. And that changes on a pretty regular, sometimes nightly, basis. We change the news stories. We kind of model it after a live newscast."

Interestingly, Montrey offered, despite Philly's reputation as a rather provincial, inward-looking place, local topics don't necessarily fly with audiences. "It's more national and international," he said. "We incorporate local news, but I think we find more often than not that the national and international news tend to play better."

Montrey acknowledged that, as many comedy writers do, he often grapples with the parameters of taste. "There's always a line, and I think you have to trust your instincts on that line," he reasoned.

"We obviously would never make fun of the people who lost their lives [in some tragic event]. If we decided we wanted to do a story like that, you find the other angle. It's more the media coverage of the event than the event itself, or how politicians respond or are taking advantage of an event like that. But it's tricky. You have to figure out what are people's relation to that event, what is their perception of the event, and will they laugh at it.

"We're not interested in the uncomfortable [for its own sake]. If we as a group recoil at something, we won't put it up there. But we've had those discussions, we've struggled with those sorts of things. We think our radar is pretty good; we know when we shouldn't cross the line, and when maybe we should take a step towards it, or even go over it."

More vexing these days, he added, is the dearth of fish-in-a-barrel subjects and targets.

"In the big picture, we're all happy with the Chris Christie [bridge scandal]. That is comic gold, and it's so close by. That has the potential to be a thing that keeps on giving," he said. But, he added, except for CNN's near-obsessive coverage of Flight 370, "There isn't anyone out there right now who's consistently making a mockery of themselves."

He name-checked such au courant topics as the upcoming midterm Congressional elections, Obamacare, the Bundy Ranch incident in Nevada and recent events in the Ukraine, but admitted none really fire his comic imagination, which is why he pines for the bygone days of the 2012 presidential election, especially the Republican primary fight.

"Those," he said, "were the golden shows. Every day there was something happening. It was the biggest goldmine ever."

Disco diva in AyCee

Fans of classic disco are advised to get to Resorts Casino-Hotel by April 27. That's where

Maxine Nightingale

is performing in "Disco Lady," a surprisingly entertaining survey of hits from the years when spandex, quaaludes and beats-per-minute were all the rage.

Nightingale, of course, is the singer who had one of the era's biggest hits, "Right Back Where We Started From." That was her only hit of any real consequence, so the rest of the quickly-paced, hour-long revusical is comprised of many other signature songs from back in the day.

The surprises referenced above come in two forms. The first is that the London-born Nightingale (who looks absolutely smashing at 61) has a superior set of pipes (who knew?). Her voice is a supple and powerful instrument that can certainly put across a melody.

The other unexpected aspect of "Disco Lady" comes courtesy of Nightingale's savvy in putting together the show's set list, which is performed to backing tracks - an acceptable situation because the "track date" originated in the nation's danceterias at the turn of the 1980s.

For 35-plus years, I have proudly numbered myself among the ranks of the "disco sucks" crowd. But Nightingale's renditions of such hits as Donna Summer's "Bad Girls," Gloria Gaynor's "Never Can Say Goodbye" (a remake of the Jackson 5's 1971 hit) and the Bee Gees' "If I Can't Have You," suggest the musical value of these numbers can transcend the sometimes odious aspects of the '70s disco culture.