What a difference a year makes. Last season, when 1812 Productions presented its annual
This Is the Week That Is
political satire, the show ran just before the presidential election, with a mother lode of material ripe for spoofing.
This year hasn't been quite as generous; health care, Afghanistan, and Iraq don't lend themselves to skewering the way political campaigners do. So this - the company's fourth show, a reversal after 1812 Productions planned to end the satires - is a tougher year for making fun.
That's clear when you consider some of the subject matter: Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Sarah Palin were edgier topics when they were contenders. Now they're the status quo, of sorts - either in office or in bookstores. While the talented cast of This Is the Week That Is: The New Administration has a good time digging at their foibles, the soil isn't as rich.
Not that the material over the course of the two-hour, two-act show isn't funny. It is, particularly some local jibes, in an evening of skits and songs once again accessorized by Jorge Cousineau's clever three-screen video and sound design.
Head writer Don Montrey pulls together material from the cast (the show changes a little nightly, depending on the news) and offers, among the routines, some zingers: a special The Price Is Right for the current economy, a Charles Dickens take on the president, an Al Franken spoof that offers impressions of celebrities, and a truly inspired bit that ends with world leaders as a boy band - the show's high point.
On the other hand, the second-half news segment seems far too long, with several items that lose impact in bulky setups. (The quick hit-and-runs can be biting knockouts.) A four-part video that spoofs future conservative Republicans is too lightly edited; each is a good idea realized at a length that outlasts its punch.
The six-member cast is classy and endearing and includes fixtures among the city's comic theater artists. Newcomer Brian Anthony Wilson joins 1812 Productions artistic director Jennifer Childs (who also directs the show), plus Tony Braithwaite, Dave Jadico, Steven Wright, and Alex Bechtel, who also serves as musical director and pianist.
At the show's start, they give one of the longest curtain speeches in history, which itself is an amusing bit. I won't give even the gist of it away, but by the time they tell you to turn off your cell phone, the speech is probably in its 12th minute.
Presented by 1812 Productions at Plays & Players Theatre, 17th and Delancey Streets, through Jan. 3. Tickets: $20-$35. Information: 215-592-9560 or www.1812productions.org.EndText