Peter Peters is back. Sort of.
Our favorite Fringe pundit has returned in an extended version of last year’s The Pundit. The first act follows Peter Peters (totally embodied by Sean Coe), a TV pundit who puts his foot in his mouth when he pretends to be an expert on Khazaria, even though he can’t locate the place on a map.
Well, it turns out a terror cell is preparing for a civil war, and the cell’s ruthless leader Ruslan X (acted menacingly by Ethan Kitts) is playing the part of the terrorist well. X begins trying to use Peters to disseminate his message, threatening various terror attacks should Peters not comply. But Peters has a knack for announcing to the world stage just the right thing to prevent said attacks, until the first act ends and things get a little too hot, a little too close to home.
Act I seems identical to The Pundit, last year’s play. In fact, this review of The Pundit is a great review of Act I. Feffer played his protagonist last year, but having Coe (who played Ruslan X last year) portray Peters while Feffer focused on writing was a solid decision.
So, Act II.
It’s four years later, and Peters’ son has been back from his imprisonment in Khazaria for two days. Peters, now Under Secretary Peters, can’t quite be bothered with this at the moment. After all, he’s brokering a deal with Iran, having an affair with his press secretary (Morganne Davies) and is on the short list for a NATO appointment. Nah, leave Joey (Conor Scanlan) with some guards, and he’ll be fine.
That is, until Ruslan X shows up again, wanting Peters to use his position to help the cause.
Act II is essentially a sloppy rehashing of Act I. The same types of jokes are here (such as X not understanding English idioms: isn’t kidnapping just goat sleeping?), and the build of the story is nearly identical. Michael Crowley does a wonderful job of playing various characters we know from last year (and are there in now Act I), such as the heartland DJ Larry Ellison and the scrupulous British journalist Rupert. Even Robert, the bumbling assistant, is still doing his best to screw everything up. Peters has to, again, explain the shitlist to him.
by John Feffer
at Goethe Institut – Main Stage
812 7th Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
“God has a shitlist!” he exclaims. “You’re young Robert, but you’re never too young to start your own shitlist.” It’s a funny quip, and a good jab at Washington life. But it’s also a recycled joke from his last play.
The Politician has everything that made The Pundit great, but it’s not as fresh. Feffer’s a great writer, one I looked forward to in this year’s festival. But Act II feels like a sitcom continuation of Act I, rather than being a furthering of the story. And given its end, I can’t help but wonder if there will be a three-hour play next year that deals with Act II’s cliffhanger.
When the new Arrested Development episodes came out, a reviewer commented that it can become tiring to spend so much time around such bad people. That’s how The Politician is. By the end of the second act, the charm and satire begins to wear off and the utter emptiness of the characters portrayed — which, of course, is the point — begins to wear on us.
I look forward to next year’s production by Feffer. Hopefully, it won’t involve someone named Peter Peters.