Capitol Steps. Created, written, performed and directed by the Company.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"You can’t help notice the elephant in the womb."
This will be brief. It has to be. I’m still laughing too hard as moments from this ever-changing topical review (sic) keep popping into my head. Five funny people with mutable faces and an endless supply of wigs have taken the small stage at Cranwell Resort and Spa in Lenox, Massachusetts for a summer-long sit-down. No matter what I tell you about, when you see it you may not see the hilarious sketch I describe. No matter whom I praise you could miss her or him as the cast changes also. There is almost no reason to be writing this except to tell you that it probably doesn’t matter who says or sings what, you will be laughing and not just at what they’re doing. You will be laughing at yourself for not having noticed, or for having forgotten, something that took place recently or a while ago that affected the way we live in this world. This is truly the news in revue (spell-check hates this, by the way).
That is what Capitol Steps is all about, really: making mock while taking stock of how the potentates, statesmen and liars in quagmires fire up our nation. Last night I heard the first performance of a brand new satirical song written and performed by Bari Biern in this show. The number worked, but she forgot a line so the pianist, Dave Kane, vamped a few bars until she found the line and got to the zinger. It was worth the wait and Biern had no time to be embarrassed, for another number was waiting in the wings. By the end of the week, if the song is still in the show, this won’t happen, although another new number could be making its way onto the stage and who knows what might occur.
This company is about amusing us and, I think, amusing each other as well. When a number comes on that they’ve done in the past it isn’t just filler but rather takes its rightful place because it is still relevant in some way. The more things change in politics the more things stay nearly the same, it seems, and so why shouldn’t this troupe revive a point of view that worked two years ago or more and still does. What also continues working, by the way, is dinner at the Wyndham Dining Room at Cranwell before the show. From drinks to desserts this is an experience that delights!
They mock politicians and political rhetoric. They make fun of Presidential policies and decisions. They take a wide and hilarious look at both houses of Congress. They explode the goings-on of other countries and dignitaries in sketches like "Greece, the Musical" in which top authorities from Germany, France and Greece sing and dance to the classic music of the Broadway show, "Grease" while digesting world economic matters in the lyrics (Bravo, Euro!). Then there are the monologues by President Barack Obama. Sometimes these explode into song and the songs are familiar and they’re pointing "Under the Sea."
At the performance I attended the show began with "The Embattled Hymn of the Republicans" and ended with a song celebrating the company’s own history of performance with illustrations - including Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress - that made the whole thing outrageous and hilarious. Personally I hope they always do the very topical "Gay Dream Believer" in which two of Congress’s least likely candidates for same-sex marriage decide to try it - not to like it, but to raise their chances of re-election. I won’t say more than that. It is too funny to spoil it.
The cast I saw including the half-crazed Bari Biern, the long-and-lanky Elaina Newport, the beige-is-beautiful Matt Pearson, the who-am-I-anyway-behind-my-resume Mike Thornton and the simply-startling Mike Tilford. Dave Kane, the pianist, was born-in-Scotland. You can see all these folks for a while and then the complement of performers will begin changing. These six will undoubtedly be my favorite company because they are the ones who delighted me on a warm summer night at Cranwell. On the hill. Just not Capitol Hill. Not yet, anyway.
Capitol Steps will be in residence at the Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club on Rte. 20 at the Lenox/Lee border through the end of August. For tickets and information call the resort at 413-881-1636.