“If you’re looking to make a friend in D.C., get a dog.”
This is one of the first words of “D.C. wisdom” imparted to me upon my move to the area following college, and a sentiment deliciously echoed in Duke Ryan’s Madam Ambassador.
A comedy of errors set in rural Union, Illinois, and then Copenhagen, it follows the ceiling-less ambitions of Valerie Butts (a delightfully dead-panned Patricia Mango), the washed up widow of a Senator.
Determined to reintroduce herself into the high-powered political sphere as an ambassador, Valerie corals the assistance of her working-class husband, Buzz Butts (Doug Graupman), and their shady political operative friend Grumpston (Richard Fiske) to set their plan into action. But what does one with little money and few connections to rocket oneself into the political elite?
Spin, spin, and then spin some more. When a scandal erupts at the hands of frenemy and lawyer Strummer (Richard Fisk), the three are forced to recalculate the cost of their ambitions and pull out the dirtiest tricks still left up their sleeves.
Directed by George Grant, the production is a humorous look into the absurd word of political dealings. The piece is full of biting dialogue and some truly sharp jabs. As Valerie Butts, Mango is charming- the woman you love to hate, while respecting her ruthless chops. The office/personal study setting gives the piece a fly-on-the-way effect, as does the theatre in the round set-up.
by Duke Ryan
at Fort Fringe – The Shop
607 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Their shenanigans has a Three’s Company Goes to Washington feel, and includes numerous sound bite gems and insider-zingers. When Strummer tells Valerie exactly how much an ambassadorship will cost her in financial contribution terms ($1 million, to be exact), “Good God, prices have gone up,” she exclaims.
Madam Ambassador loses her steam in the second act (though a wonderful cameo by Diana Partridge as a Danish housemaid breathes life back into the journey). Exhaustion comes along with such dirty dealings as the plot complicates just beyond what’s necessary. It’s an experience that does best with snark – the dry and cynical musings of people who have been playing the game too long (and wouldn’t trade it for the world).
“Where I come from,” Valerie informs her largely ignorant husband, “Politics matter.” I’m grateful I didn’t come from such a world, but also glad for the opportunity to shamelessly peer into one. These characters, while largely despicable, are also watchable. And let’s be honest, there’s a little bit of Valerie Butts in us all.