Philadelphia's theater community offers a number of annual traditions that set our scene apart: the panto at People's Light, the see-200-shows-in-21-days atmosphere of the Fringe, and 1812's (mostly) annual This Is the Week That Is.
I haven't caught 1812's sketch comedy show in a few years. But as Wednesday's opening proved, it's not because the quality of the comedy has dipped.
Though past years' installments have covered elections or holidays, this version serves as an end-of-year roundup: what we've learned (not much), what should frighten us going forward (Mitch McConnell), and, as cast member Aimé Kelly tells us while portraying Taney Dragons pitcher Mo'ne Davis, the good things we should celebrate (not the 76ers).
Mostly, the show covers what we can poke fun at without really offending anyone too much. And that's OK, as, with little exception, this evening of sketches and songs riffed gently on one topic after another with loads of laughter in response.
Humor ranges from dry to very dry, in the style of zinging one-liners and straight-man punch lines. When testing out a joke about Will Lautzenheiser, who recently underwent a double-arm transplant, news anchor Don Montrey questioned why the patient chose traditional human arms when he could have exercised his right to bear arms.
The company kept crowd-pleasing elements from past years: audience participation in a fake mayoral election, the splitting of the show into two halves, and video interludes designed by the expert hand of Jorge Cousineau.
This year's videos extended from a Mad Men sketch (featuring Dave Jadico as Don Draper and Montrey doing a great riff on aging womanizer Roger Sterling). I won't spoil any surprises here, but I'd recommend the evening based on the clever drone video alone.
Although director Jennifer Childs doesn't feature in the sketches, her audience favorite, Shunk Street stoop dweller Patsy, makes a brief video appearance. But her absence is OK, too, as Kelly and music director Tabitha Allen bring a much welcome younger perspective on current events.
Kelly's hilarious faux news segment, "Hey Bitches," imagines The View as hosted by Kim Kardashian and Keisha, and shows which age demographic in the cast can take the pulse of popular culture.
And their contributions demonstrate that this theater tradition is in good hands well into the future.
This Is the Week That Is
Through Dec. 31 at Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Pl. Tickets: $26 to $40. Information: 215-592-9560, 1812productions.org. EndText