Capitol Steps: Campaign and Suffering. Written mostly by Bill Strauss, Elaina Newport and Mark Eaton with the cast. Directed by Bill Strauss.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"The American Lay of Wife"
Take five talented performers: Bari Biern, Mike Carruthers, Ann Johnson, Jack Rowles and Mike Thornton; add in the musical abilities of Howard Breitbart; toss in song parodies, political jokes, stand-up abilities, incisive material, cutting edge humor, insider information, and constantly updated material and you have Capitol Steps. All of the participants have had some personal professional contract in Washington, DC working for a Senator or a Representative. Each of them is able to bring a degree of insight into their performances. The result is a knock-out ninety minute show that whizzes by in the wink of an eye.
This company will play their ever-changing laugh-fest at Cranwell in Lenox, Massachusetts through the summer and if you attend more than once, chances are youíll see how such a pertinent parody revue grows with the season, especially in a Presidential election year.
This edition has some highlights which, hopefully, will stay fixed in their repertoire for the season. The Dubya sketches are hilarious and timeless. His song "The Brain-Mouth Connection" is absolutely right on, whether youíre a Democrat or a Republican. As the President attempts to confront the relationship between what he thinks and how he expresses it, you could die from side-splitting laughter. George W. Bush is a specialty of Mike Thornton who also takes a very good crack at Bill Clinton.
In a sketch in which Bill C. tries to encourage a political marriage between Hilary and Obama, Thornton is constantly distracted by a woman in the audience who ends up being the actual object of his intentions.
When I saw this show Thornton could not make it through his last sketch playing Bush. Mike Carruthers, playing a Chinese minister broke up Thornton with his excessive and hilarious physical comedy which also took down Jack Rowles as their interpreter. Carruthers also won points with his senile Supreme Court judge and a variety of other roles as well. Rowles played a wide variety of hilarious people, but was charming in a John Denver moment.
Ann Johnson shone often and Bari Biern was especially funny as Hilary Clinton, particularly when she and Obama sang their jazz duet "Ebony and Ovary."
There were other highlights, but not even the Rudy Guiliani bit needs to be singled out. The show has a seamless quality with the threads constructed of humor and the pattern a crazy quilt of assaults on the plays for power.
Tickets for this show are not cheap and there isnít even a cabaret setting, just chairs in a meeting room facing a cordoned off corner for the temporary stage. Even so, I think the show justifies the cost and no one in the audience seemed to feel anything else, judging by the wild applause that followed the consistent laughter.
Capitol Steps plays nightly, except for Tuesday, through August 31 at Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club in Lenox, MA. Tickets are $49 and you can reserve them by calling the box office at 413-881-1636.