A race for the vice-presidency of Capital Fringe. Poetry. A totally historically accurate depiction of the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, replete with dance-fighting and karate tops. History. Multi-cultural reporting. Break dancing. Female reporters in referee costumes. Fact-checking. King of the Yetis. Stand up comedy. And a cliffhanger.
That’s The Encyclopedia Show D.C., a variety show that actually puts an emphasis on variety. The show’s absurd, but the premise is simple enough. Two men are vying to be the vice-president of Capital Fringe, though candidate Norm Fairweather (Keith Center) keeps confusing Fringe with the USA. The other candidate, Brock Godlove (Regie Cabico), knows what he’s running for and campaigns accordingly. “You’re either American or you’re on a bus to Mexico,” he shouts. “I believe women have the right to choose their drinks.” Fairweather takes a more neutral approach, promising to believe whatever you do.
This is the main thread, but there are acts of all different kinds.
Co-hosts Kevin Phillips and Shivali Chevtastic keep things fresh, offering jokes and explanations of the variety show throughout (i.e. “I warn you there will be profanity on stage, and now I encourage you to use profanity on Twitter” says Phillips, as he explains the audience can vote for its VP candidate online).
Judson Lewis keeps the performance on its toes, playing the drunk and homeless Bart Bottomsworth who, decked out in Party City-esque “America” gear, runs through the show from time to time. Finally, David Carter is the Fact Checker, ensuring nothing incorrect is mentioned on stage (and offering some of his own thoughts, such as “There are too many white people here”).
The Encyclopedia Show
by Judson Lewis
645 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Those folks are the cast, but a number of contributors weave in and out during the 90 minutes.
First is comic Jamel Johnson, who riffs on vice-presidents (comparing Dick Chaney and DMC) and being a black comic at Fringe (“I was hanging out at LUX. I thought this shit was a white party.”)
Kim Roberts offers a fascinating and educational monologue on the history of “accidental presidents,” which are vice-presidents who became president without choosing to. While educational, her storytelling ability keeps it interesting and fresh.
Jocelyn Price offers readings of imagined letters from Richard Mentor Johnson’s wife, who was a former slave whom he didn’t treat well in the slightest.
Heather Nadolny offered a beautiful but hilarious song about what it means to be the Fringe VP. She also summed up this show, for me. At one point in the song, which is long and wordy, she forgot her place. The moment could have been disastrous, but instead she made a joke about it. When she clearly couldn’t recall where she was, Carter the Fact Checker gave her the line and the show moved on. This probably seems like a strange thing to praise, but the moment flowed so well, it almost could have been planned. That’s the sign of a tight cast on stage.
The only real criticism of the show has to do with its format, which isn’t a fair criticism. While refreshing to have so many different parts and tones, as an audience member, it was a little difficult to make the switch. At times, it felt like a party with one too many toasts. But it’s a small complaint, and had the show not had so many different tones, that would likely had been the criticism.
One last note: there are two versions of this show playing at Fringe, the next one acting as a sequel. So if you’re interested in the show, get to it in time to see it twice in case you love it!