In Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, you can buy a substantial iced tumbler full of vodka and Kahlua for the very reasonable price of $8. Thank the Lord God Almighty! Because without cheap and plentiful alcohol, you will be forced to watch Wiener Sausage sober, as I did. It will not be a happy experience.
O.K., hold your breath, here goes. Jo (Kate Nelson), a mighty hermaphrodite who works in the same überstore in which she was born, apparently without parents, suddenly has her lifelong dream of becoming a Washington journalist come true when two anchorfolks (Lauren Ciandella and Andrew Hartman) bring her to the Nation’s Capital. There, President Shrubb (James Irving) has led the country to the brink of war with the Netherlands over the renewables, whatever they are, which are hidden behind Holland’s dikes. The peace movement is led by Openly Gay Senate Minority Leader Keentz (Michael Kaufman), who is nonetheless in the closet about some other issues. Indeed, when his aide Johnny (Carlos Valazquez) discovers Senator Keentz in bed with a sheep, the Senator immediately begins to strangle his ovine companion, and I was compelled to think of the guy who wrote in all upset about my review of The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia. He better not see this; he’ll have apoplexy. Anyway, it turns out that the evil Professor Doctor Schmock (Sean Felix) is behind all this: he means to have the renewables so that he can fly to a star, the core of which is made entirely of diamond. In the meantime, Johnny, also a hermaphrodite, has fallen in love with Jo, and she, or he, with him, or her. All this suits Dr. Schmock’s plans, because… aw, really, who cares?
The book is putrid, made worse because it is self-consciously ironic and camp, calling attention to itself for its badness. For example, Johnny periodically cries out to have the plot explained to him, and Guy Williams (Shelby Sours) steps in at the end to straighten everything out through exposition. But the author (I do not know whether Paul MacKie or Dan Sullivan is responsible for the book, though I suspect the latter) cannot evade responsibility for a bad script by pretending that the badness was the point, any more than Maxwell Smart can shoot himself in the foot and say “I meant to do that.”
As horrible as the book is, the acting is even worse. Irving plays President Shrubb using tones and gestures not seen in public since the days of Amos ‘n’ Andy. Kaufman delivers his lines so quickly, and in such a slurry of words, that he is almost incomprehensible; this has the single advantage of getting the play over with earlier. The remaining actors, in particular Ciandella and Harman, mis-deliver their lines with dismaying regularity. From all these criticisms I explicitly exempt Kate Nelson, who has a voice like an angel and throws herself into her role with puckish good humor. Having her in this play is like hearing Placido Domingo sing the Budweiser jingle, or seeing Ben Kingsley and Derrick Jacoby doing Shear Madness, or watching the Royal Shakespeare Company do Coriolanus. It is unnecessary and a little unsettling as well.
To top things off, the technical is awful. The mics fade on and off; the music periodically drowns out the singers; and we are beset by feedback and buzzing throughout the show. Wisely, sound design is uncredited.
So is there any merit to this exercise at all? Sure. Nelson, as I mentioned, sings beautifully and everyone else is at least competent vocally. The music, while not Sondheim, is listenable. The lyrics are occasionally clever. So here’s some unsolicited advice to Messers. Mackie and Sullivan. Junk the book. Populate the play with folks who can act as well as sing (there’s plenty in Washington). Sign Ms. Nelson to a long contract. And, in the meantime, keep those Black Russians flowing.
- Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
- Tickets: Wiener Sausage: The Musical!
- Remaining Shows: Fri, July 25 at 7:30 . Sat, July 26 at 5
- Where: Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, 1725 Columbia Road NW
just someone who saw Weiner says
John Waters rewriting Star Wars. That is a good description. I have seen several Fringe Shows this year. This was not the worst by far. It was rough but had its moments. They chould use a director. And the acting was hardly as awful as described and better than all the others I have seen, including one that was given four starts. The newcaster couple was cute and had some sparks, and Johnny was good too. This is a fringe festival and Wenier ws definately on the fringe. And I didn’t drink.
Fred Wellington says
This reviewer obviously saw an off-night. Saw this last night and was floored. I did a search this morning after seeing the show and found this trash. I don’t agree with a thing this reviewer says. Did he really even attend. Weird. I wonder what gets him excited … ludes?
Oh come on. It wasn’t the greatest 90 minutes of my life, but I did laugh. In fact, I laughed alot. So did most of the audience opening night–it was loud and rowdy on-stage and off. And what about Dr. Schmock’s inter-galactic costume? That was perfect. Life-changing? Nope, but fun.
Fred Norris says
I am not sure whether or not this critic is a REAL theater critic or not. But their website aspires to be a haven for all things DC theater related. I don’t think it is fair to attack a critic if you disagree with their opinion. After all, their job is to critique the work. If they said every show was the greatest thing since sliced bread, you would assume they were lying or on the producer’s payroll.
But you can’t assume they are stupid or idiotic just because they didn’t like the show. I have seen it. It is a mess. It was unworthy of my 15 bucks. It is clear that it lacked any sense of direction since many of the actors kind of stood around waiting for their lines to come up instead of having a sense of character and purpose. I don’t know if I’d call it putrid, but the dialogue is particularly senseless and lacking in style or wit. BUT people, remember this is a FRINGE FESTIVAL SHOW! It isn’t supposed to be Shakespeare.
I do think it is fair to say that in the hands of a real director the show could at least be much funnier and move along more smoothly. These two guys who created the show obviously know little about theater, and that is actually part of the problem. You can’t break the rules if you don’t know them first.
I would say rather than scrap the book and start from scratch, just get a real director and make sure the show is as funny as possible. They will never be able to turn this story into South Pacific, so why bother. Just try to make it funny and breezy and keep your aspirations low. I can’t imagine people who would write about hot dogs really would think they could take this to Broadway. I am sure they are just having some fun in their off time.
Well, one online blogger at the Washington Post City Guide was either wasted throughout the show or lacked Dr. Doom’s propensity for self-mutilation of the eyeball. Gas333 writes:
Now here is something you don’t see every day. A rock and roll musical about hermaphroditic siblings genetically engineered by an evil scientist to channel renewable energy towards his nefarious purposes. Yes, this is in DC, so there are naturally politicians involved. I don’t see a lot of theater, mind you, but I really enjoyed this. Shakespeare this is not. But you don’t attend something with a title like this unless you’re looking for some trashiness, and on that front The Sausage delivers. Sort of like John Waters rewriting the script of Star Wars, and throwing in a cover of the theme song from Silver Spoons.Some of the cliches went a little over the top (which might be the point), but the live band is great.
P.S. Comedy is supposed to be FUNNY…
Ummmm…I think that the reviewer was spot on. The acting…terrible. Dialogue…terrible. Singing…wonderful. Just about everything else…terrible, terrible, terrible. I had to drink heavily just to survive the 90 minutes of my life I will NEVER EVER get back. I was close to plucking my eyeballs out and puncturing my eardrums to ease the pain of watching the show. I know you guys have friends and family who may have been a part of the show, so you think that these reviews are harsh. But no…it was bad. It was sooooo bad.
Having said that, I do appreciate the actors attempt at putting on a how. I know it’s difficult and you may have been put in a difficult position if you’ve only had the script for a short period of time. So is it the producer’s fault or the actor’s fault? Yes on both accounts. Horrible show. Go back, rewrite the book, rehearse the actors (correctly, not that buffoonery we saw), and produce a sound play. Take ALL the time you need. ‘Cause you need a lot.
This review was not entirely balanced. While some of the criticisms may have been well-put, many of them lack the acknowledgment that this is a young production that has a lot or potential to grow with every show, and as such is something definitely to be witnessed while it is currently playing in DC.
Period. ’nuff said.
Not to mention that the regular sound guy had to step in and play guitar at the last minute.
I agree with Ms. Johnson that “Wiener Sausage” really put together a great cast and crew ensemble, and everyone worked hard to make it an entertaining show.
Although the review is harsh, it is not entirely unwarranted, and no excuses need be made for anyone’s performance. I know for an absolute fact that all of the actors received their scripts and were rehearsing weeks before Sunday’s production. I would encourage the reviewer to attend another performance (maybe with a vodka drink or two), when the sound isn’t being operated by a volunteer, as it was on Sunday.
Ms. Johnson says
PS: The whole cast and crew really pulled together…GREAT job
The Wiener Sausage lives on !!!!!!!!!!!!
Ms. Johnson says
Well thank you for that review, one question “Who the hell are You”. I thought the play was funny and entertaining, something we ALL need in this society today. While I know you are doing your job, your attacks are tasteless. At least they have the gull to perform on stage in front of people instead of hiding behind a computer and downing their character. The President only had that script for 2 weeks and the Senator one week prior, by the way it is a comedy.