The title may lure D.C.’s politicos and wonks, but be warned, Young Republicans isn’t so much a play about being Republican, as it is a play about being young. (Think “Glee” meets James O’Keefe.)
Written by Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri and directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner, the premiere of Young Republicans at the Goethe Institut transports the audience to Hill County College, where members of the conservative club are struggling to overcome a Twitter scandal perpetrated by its effervescently dim and well-endowed president, Stephanie, played brilliantly by Alison Talvacchio.
Under pressure to live down Stephanie’s racist tweet about the President, the club’s members decide that she must be replaced.
But who will be their next leader?
Will it be Mitch, played by Andrew Ferlo, the archetypal Joe College, prone to smiling and spontaneous prayer, who has an equally archetypal secret that could ruin his nascent political career?
Or will it be pinstripe-suit-wearing Carla, played by Robin Covington, who is the smartest person in the room, but possesses a belligerent intensity that makes even the Capital Fringe audience uncomfortable?
Or will Stephanie make a comeback by running again, with the hopes that the club will stand with her through her tweetsgression?
As members of the club, the audience hears the pitches from each candidate and they witness some behind-the-scenes maneuvers about the making of a young Republican.
Parts of the dialogue are hilarious, especially Mitch’s expositions about how much he love’s God spirit inside him (great timing by Ferlo) and Carla’s entire final campaign speech.
But other parts seem like cliché jokes, such as Stephanie swearing that she has a lot of black friends, well not personally, but she had a black nanny.
The rest of the cast, club member Anne, (Suzanne Watts), Mitch’s campaign manager, Chuck, (Sam Repshas), and the editor of the college paper Caleb, (Elliot Davis), serve as voices of sanity for Mitch, Carla, and Stephanie, though sometimes their advice isn’t so cogent, like Anne telling Carla to “wriggle more” and tone down her intellectualism.
Anne also offers the final sobering message about campaigns and elections that seems totally disconnected from the rest of the play. It would have been nice to see hints of that final thread throughout the comedy.
While the play touches on some topics that are stereotypically Republican taboos (homosexuality, the role of women) it’s really about college students struggling to be true to themselves while keeping up with appearances, in this case, a conservative one.
In this regard, the caricatures are ones I’ve seen again and again. I’d love to see the progressive version of this play, perhaps next Fringe Festival they’ll be a Young Democrats?
Note: please, please, do not come late to any Capital Fringe show, but especially not this one. The Goethe Institut main stage is small, and the entrance leads right to the stage and latecomers are incredibly distracting.
Young Republicans has 5 performances thru July 24, 2012 at Goethe Institut 812 7th St NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets
Lisa rates this 4 out of 5.