You don’t meet a ton of pundits or humorists these days that can utter the phrase, “Never met a man I didn’t like” and mean it. But Will Rogers was a different sort of political animal, and Will Rogers’ U.S.A. celebrates his unique sincerity, wit and wisdom.
Don’t expect any rope tricks or dancing Ziegfeld girls here: Kaleidoscope Theatre Company’s production focuses solely on Rogers’ later years as a monologist with a flair for gentle political commentary. In Will Rogers’ U.S.A., actor Trip Lloyd (performer Rob Cork alternates in the role for several shows), gives a brief biographical sketch of Rogers’ life before donning a cowboy hat and bandana to embody the man himself for the remainder of the performance.
As Rogers, Lloyd unpacks the news of the day with a bemused grin and an easy, rambling style. Targets of Rogers’ joshing include frequent jabs at Congress, a mocking impression of Calvin Coolidge and asides about the pointlessness of war. The themes of Rogers’ musings still have some contemporary resonance, but the words are Rogers’ own – those familiar with the figure’s more famous quotes and punchlines will recognize many of them here.
Lloyd’s habit of checking his notes as the show progresses is a little distracting, but he connects well enough with the audience and sketches a convincing version of the historical figure. The show meanders at times (it’s likely Rogers’ own performances did as well, years ago) but Will Rogers U.S.A. is a diverting step back in time to an era when, as Rogers says, “if there’s no malice in your heart, there can’t be any in your jokes.”
Will Rogers U.S.A. has 5 performances, ending July 29, 2012 at the Caos on F, 923 F St NW, Washington, DC.
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Missy rates this 3 out of a possible 5.