It's hard to believe that the current iteration of This Is the Week That Is celebrates 1812 Productions' 10th anniversary of their year-ending sketch-comedy show. But given the level of talent involved, it comes as no surprise that rather than feel stale, the writers at 1812 continue to expertly blend the comfort of recognition with the joys of discovering something new.
Like past shows preceding election years, much of this year's content centers on roasting the candidates vying for nominations in the coming presidential election. The reality-show parody Project Run the Country My Way takes off on Project Runway, with Heidi Klum (Jennifer Childs) pitting Republican hopefuls in a fashion contest. Or there's Childs as Hillary Clinton on After Hours, attempting to show her fun side by dragging an audience member on stage to play Twister.
Newer topics, reflecting campus protests and coming Hollywood blockbusters, rank "race" and Star Wars as - literally, there's a list - the numbers 1 and 3 items of concern. Regular Aimé Donna Kelly and newcomer Justin Jain play a modern family plagued by the ghost of a 1950s-era racist on Keeping Up with the Caucasians. And the entire cast features as Star Wars refugees displaced by Galactic Empire policy (Lauren Perigard Kaisoglus' costumes induce peals of laughter).
Alex Bechtel's music direction infuses the evening with a sense of whimsical fun, particularly when spoofing Donald Trump's ability to deflect criticism in a riff on Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off," and in a ridiculous number composed entirely of outlandish statements actually made by candidates.
Once again, Jorge Cousineau produces professional videos, displayed on the large panels of Lance Kniskern's set, to break up the prevalence of reality-show skits (if only something could do that in real life). Most of these hilarious shorts featured Dave Jadico as a befuddled Bernie Sanders - whether on Wheel of Fortune or The Bachelor - being lambasted for his overwrought explanations of simple issues (such as making The Bachelor's use of roses an analogy for income inequality).
As in past years, the content impresses with its cleverness and audacity to pan candidates on both sides of the aisle, though Trump earns the lion's share here. And the traditional template still devotes the second half of the evening to a Daily Show-style look at the news.
Here, 1812-newcomer Sean Close provides the 10th anniversary with the bulk of its fresh comedy. After multiple Shakespearean roles at Quintessence Theatre Group, Close here displays a self-deprecating comedic style and quick-witted ad-libbing ability.
"This Is the Week That Is" at Plays & Players, 1714 Delancey St., through Dec. 31. Tickets: $28-$42. Information: 215-592-9560 or 1812productions.org.