Anyone who’s ever found themselves hypnotized by an episode of the Real Housewives franchise will recognize the seating arrangement and musical interlude as Jenny Splitter’s comedy, H Street Housewives, opens.
It’s the reunion show! All grievances not previously aired will be aired.
Splitter and director Kristy Simmons have taken the same tried-and-true scenarios that made Bravo a housewife factory, and added a new twist. There are still infidelity rumors, drinks thrown in faces, grown women acting like teenagers, and fights over how to raise children.
But on H Street, that drink is kombucha and those fights involve whether it’s better to bring up gender-neutral free-range children or kids who attend a Mandarin-Arabic charter and give TED talks on the side.
The enthusiastic cast includes hippie Lorraine (played over-dramatically, yet spot on by Jessi Baden-Campbell), preppy Suze (a strong showing by Molly Woods Murchie), one-fourth of a power family Francine (straight woman Anika Harden), and New Jersey transplant, Gina (a very lovely Peter J. Orvetti).
Bringing them all apart is their host and instigator Tag (Dane Edidi), a drag version of Bravo’s Andy Cohen, who’s kinda mean.
While there are certainly laughs in H Street Housewives, nuance is not the script’s strength. Many jokes were repetitive (exactly how many times can you say free-range or hand sanitizer without it being overplayed?) and at times the the actors seemed to be reading lines rather than embodying them.
The jokes that truly hit the spot for me were the ones that highlighted H-Street. For example, when Lorraine objects to the the predictability of the Cheesecake Factory that Gina is working to bring into the the neighborhood, she says: “We don’t want predictable, that’s why we have a Mexican restaurant with a putt putt course.”
To which Gina replies: “Enjoy your Irish-Jewish place”.
The Star and Shamrock and H Street Country Club were not sponsors, btw.
H Street Housewives
by Jenny Splitter
at Fort Fringe – Redrum
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Other funny moments included waiter Kevin Peck describing a restaurant’s special as “Local and artisanal sweaty pig jowl topped with a single fig” and Suze’s brilliant enunciation as she describes being called a “cracker”. I also loved Gina’s complaint about Capital Bike Share: “There are asexual hipsters riding red bikes all over this city. Without helmets! Asexuals, without helmets!”
Still, far too much of H Street Housewives was devoted the the well-trodden path of making fun of hippies, making Lorraine a primary target and instigator. The jokes about race also felt tired, especially when Lorraine, who continuously swears that she “doesn’t see color”, has a breakdown and asks a series of silly questions including: Why are black people so loud on the bus? What exactly is ashy skin? How can black women change their hair so often? and Why can’t we all get our hair done in the same place?
Francine, the only black housewife in the group just responds dispassionately: “Slow down Rosa Parks.”
The Francine character mentions early on that she moved back to H Street to live in her grandmother’s house, and I had hoped that given the very real tensions between older residents of the neighborhood and the newer migrants, there’d be at least one or two smart jokes about gentrification. Instead, unlike most of the script, that part of her dialogue wasn’t a setup for a joke.