1812 Productions’ 12th annual production of This Is the Week That Is (TIWTI), an irreverent collection of political skits and songs updated daily, remains relevant each year. Cultural and social issues change, cast members get replaced, and beloved characters and bits continue without the show sinking into nostalgic repetition. Somehow director Jennifer Childs, head writer Don Montrey, and their cowriting castmates make it feel fresh again and again.
This year’s iteration is all Trump all the time, though Childs wisely foregoes assigning anyone the job of impersonating him. She even earns a laugh by having all the actors refuse to play him. The obligatory curtain speech — always a creative parody of theaters’ donation requests — becomes Trumpian, as Childs tweets lies about the crowd size, then abuses her coworkers. When they try to have a Trump-free moment, they discover that, like the famous “six degrees of Kevin Bacon,” every topic connects to Trump.
Any resemblance to SNL is...
1812’s approach will be familiar to Saturday Night Live watchers, but usually as good as or better than their TV counterparts’ efforts. TIWTI’s Family Feud parody, “And We Thought YOU Were Bad,” features failed presidential candidates: Susan Riley Stevens as Sarah Palin, Jenson Titus Lavellee as Mitt Romney, Childs reprising her fat-suited Chris Christie from past TIWTIs, and Rob Tucker as wild card Newbury Longfellow, an apparently fictional slave owner who lost to James Madison. Sean Close’s George W. Bush hosts, with Dave Jadico’s Howard Dean — of the infamous 2008 campaign-ending scream — keeping score.
Veteran TIWTI audiences may pout because Aimee Kelly, Alex Bechdel, Scott Greer, and other familiar favorites are gone. But we don’t miss them for long, as the show accommodates this cast’s strengths.
Other skits include Jadico and Lavellee as Red versus Blue, both literally living in bubbles, and a talk-show parody, “2 Woke Girls,” with Childs and Stevens as octogenarians awakened to male improprieties in a women’s-studies class. Instead of drafting an audience member to run for office as usual, they select someone to be Trump’s next press secretary. With an exuberant dance to “We Need a Hero,” the first act ends with cautious optimism.
Sean Close again anchors the TIWTI news, occupying most of Act II. He lands zingers about Trump’s “Pocohontas” remarks and Roy Moore — which might be gone when new outrages replace today’s sound bites. There’s no attempt at anti-partisan fairness here; anyone who wears a MAGA hat should probably stay home.
Jadico plays a convincing Jerry Seinfeld dissecting gerrymandering, but Stevens’s dippy weather girl, whose forecasts are increasingly about her tempestuous home life, overstays her welcome.
Later, familiar characters return. Jadico’s live interview routine brings another well-crafted audience interaction. Childs’s Patsy, her much-loved South Philly front-stoop sage, takes her customary place as the show’s climax.
Traditionally, the finale is a rousing pop song played and sung by the entire cast, something like “Born in the USA” or “Peace, Love, and Understanding.” This year, Paul Simon’s “American Tune” (AKA “And I Dreamed I Was Flying”), set to music by J.S. Bach, calls for reflection, patience, and perseverance:
But it's all right, it's all right
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's gonna be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest,
That's all, I'm trying to get some rest.
Samuel Beckett famously wrote, “I can’t go on, I must go on.” This Is the Week That Is blows away the political year’s crumbs and cobwebs, convincing us that whatever comes next can’t be any worse. Can it?