The Capitol Steps: Take the Money and Run. . .For President. Written and directed by the company.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"How do you start a small business? Start a big business. . .and then you wait."
For more than thirty years, since 1981, The Capitol Steps have been entertaining audiences with their irreverent takes on all things political, U.S. and otherwise. They take an issue or a personality or a politic decision on the part of someone in Washington, DC and turn it into something funny, something sarcastic or sardonic, something delightful even if it hurts to laugh at it. They do this with charm and wit and often some over-the-top exaggeration - witness their pirate quartet with Bob Dylan participating to the best of his limited ability - and leave us laughing in spite of what might be termed better judgement.
Laughing at our government is a peculiarly American policy. On stage in the downstairs cabaret room at Cranwell Resort in Lenox, MA, five touring members of this District of Columbia based theater troupe do just that and do it with emphasis. They really seem to enjoy poking politicians in the ribs, not so much to hurt as to expose and explore what lies inside them. On the night I saw them this time there was no appearance of Sarah Palin who has been a staple of the past several editions of the show, but by the time you see the performance she might be back. The current election year has focused this performance in other, more specific ways and even the appearance of a few old-time favorite sketches - which still seem to be appropriately current, by the way - keeps the show on track to hilarity.
The five members of the troupe will be changing over time, so though I will mention them by name you may not see these folks. Bari Biern plays people you might not remember, might not know, but she also takes on Ruth Bader Ginsberg in one of the funniest on-going numbers. Biern is funny just holding a sign and she sings really well, too.
Matt Pearson puts in many appearances as President Obama and each time is funnier than the last. He also makes a terrific pirate, arab, Indian chief and other ethnic types. He is an excellent foil for Mike Thornton who often plays opposite him in scenes, songs and sketches. Thornton plays his final parlay card with the annual "Lirty Dies" monologue, a lengthy comic treatise on current politics with letters reversed and traded to change the words into a nonsense speech that often make more sense than you would think (Think "Dirty Lies" and you’ve got the concept).
Tracy Stephens is wonderful in all of her roles but best as a big- busted transgender candidate in a wonderful scene about airport security. She plays this moment with Evan Casey who takes on so many parts that to list them would be to make them unreal if you haven’t seen the show. Howard Breitbart is the current accompanist. If you catch the show immediately any of the above should still be in it, while others will have moved on and been replaced by members of the larger troupe. If they are all as good as these five, the show should be a consistent pleasure (and I have no reason to ever doubt that the show will still be just this good).
Political satire, political reviews with songs you’ll recognize but not know, are among the most difficult to pull off well. The Capitol Steps manage to fulfill these expectations and even better, to surpass them.
"So drink, smoke, run with scissors. . ." the show is on and the humor will mirror every day occurrences, every day and in every way as the script changes with the fortunes and tides of Presidential hopefuls, foreign currency issues, healthcare, budgets, and how to do my own work when I can. Nothing is taboo when you’re The Capitol Steps. Well, there’s one. I’m sure there is.
The Capitol Steps: Take the Money and Run. . .For President plays at the Olmsted Building on the grounds of Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club on Route 20 in Lenox, MA through September 2. For information and tickets call the box office at 413-881-1636.