The News in Revue, written by Nancy Holson, co-directed by Holson and Jay Falzone.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"Jesus would put the seat down!"
"Satire," George S. Kaufman smartly said, "is what closes on Saturday night." Or at least he should have said it. He knew about satire. He won the Pulitzer Prize for it with the book to the Gershwins musical Of Thee I Sing. He had success with it throughout his life. Gore Vidal said it better and in a more relevant form: "If satire is to be effective, the audience must be aware of the thing satirized." That would seem to be the premise of the 90 minute, non-stop revue called "The News in Revue" here for its 14th season of performances. Now in Pittsfield, at the newly dubbed Mountainside Playhouse at Bousquet Mountain Ski Resort on Dan Fox Drive, the move itself is practically a satire all its own.
Like Kaufmanís best work and Vidalís also, the show is largely aimed at political targets. Changing with the news, the show reflects a cynical point of view on everything from the coming elections and the prospective candidates, the religious rightís views on same-sex marriage, civil unions and public appearances of non-traditional couples, Paris Hilton and her ilk and a hilarious load of everything in between, including those quick fix job fairs that have become so popular in this region.
The show is played at a hectic pace by four extremely talented comic actor/singer/dancers, led by a veteran of the show, and its creatorís co-director, Jay Falzone. This is his ninth year with the show, a career in itself. He seems to be capable of anything on the small stage at Bousquet. His wide range of characters, each clearly and distinctly played, is remarkable. His level of humorous delivery, accented by a seriousness that seemed about to burst at the seams now and then, is just slightly over-the-top but never unbelievable. He has also choreographed the show and his musical numbers are sensationally refreshing. Thereís a song and dance duet for Barbara Bush, yes thatís the Presidential Mama, and a military figure that left us howling.
The other man in the show is Stephen Smith who is just as good as Falzone. His rendition of Barak Obama is a pure delight, especially alongside Falzoneís Reverend Al Sharpton. The two men also become Mitt Romney and his Aunt - Ethel Morman. And if that doesnít get you, nothing will.
Amanda Danskin and Shannon Turner show up in so many roles that, even though they are clearly different women, they become hard to distinguish at times. Danskin is a Tammy Faye clone at times, a Paris Hilton at others. When, as Hilton, she sings the satirical parody lyrics to "Itís a Hard Knock Life" from Annie she knocks your socks off. Similarly, in a testament to misplaced taste, Turner sings a hippy-hymn to John McCain that leaves you in tears, but not from the emotions of a lost or destroyed love. Turnerís Rosie OíDonnell is fun too and her Benjamin Franklin is not to be forgotten. Danskin has a truly remarkable singing voice and style and she can turn the most obvious rhyme into the biggest surprise.
Brent Frederick is the musical director and a participant of sorts of in the proceedings. His talents are there to aid and abet and he does his job well.
When Carl Rove sings "Donít Lie Out Loud," to the tune of "Argentina" to a too silly to be true, one hopes, George W. Bush, it is a tone setter for an evening of constant ribald humor and outrageously right-on fun poked in the ribs of our major players in the world today. Assassinations may not be on the stage, but who knows whatís waiting in the wings for this talented, funny bunch.
The evening is completed by an all-you-can-eat BBQ downstairs, or outside if the weather is good, prepared and served by the chefs and bar staff at Bousquet. With a very good pulled pork, or cheeseburgers, or sausage and peppers and all sorts of goodies, its the only dinner-theater experience in the Berkshires nowadays and its worth it to spend an evening, or two if you can space it out and find some new material, with The News in Revue. Together, or apart, they make it a fun place to be in these tired and tacky times.
Barbara Bush and friend
A nuclear (Religious Right) Connecticut Family
A new special Presidential Advisory Committee
The News in Revue plays Thursday to Tuesday nights at The Mountainside Playhouse at the foot of the Historic Bousquet Mountain Ski Resort on Dan Fox Drive in Pittsfield, MA. The combination ticket, including the BBQ, is $55. Show only tickets may be available. For availability and tickets call 413-442-8316 or 866-811-4111.