I was feeling wary about seeing the virtual presentation of This Is the Week That Is, the annual political satire revue from 1812 Productions, because I find myself fatigued with 2020 humor. There are only so many funny things to say about the alienation of Zoom or the warp speed with which our norms and lives have changed. The relentless cruelty of many elected officials and the apparent fragility of our democracy seem too raw to poke at. And while the silly sketches and jaunty musical numbers of this year’s production did not completely erase my 2020 bah-humbugs, I was deeply touched by the cast’s generous heart-pouring.
Melania, Adele, Kamala, and Covid
This show is written and performed by an able array of veterans and newcomers. Bren Thomas’s Melania Trump impersonation was the one laugh-out-loud moment for me. Pax Ressler, who also is the show’s music director, delivers a somewhat nonsensical yet tremendous Adele impression. Sean Close handles the news desk (and portrays the president-elect) with gravitas. Dave Jadico is an effortless straight man throughout. Brett Ashley Robinson’s warmth and humor are infectious, even when playing a presidential Kamala Harris. Annie Fang is delightfully irreverent, especially in a recurring role as Covid-19 personified, or “The China Virus,” that skirts the line of good taste.
The cast finds inventive ways to costume themselves while in their own homes. The singing and dancing, while not Broadway-caliber, is well-executed and fun.
Making sense of the world
1812 Productions intelligently embraces virtual performance. Featuring polished, well-shot and edited, pre-recorded sketches and musical numbers as well as live interactive elements (a Zoom call, a chat feature, and improvisational performance), This Is the Week That Is combines the best of both worlds. The delicate balance keeps the show feeling dynamic and nimble. The chat feature was well utilized in a few key moments during the show, but I otherwise ignored it. Other audience members seemed to really enjoy the ability to send kudos to the cast members and interact with each other.
The digital format of this year’s presentation also made room to include many alums of shows past. Well-wishes from and interviews with previous cast members gave the performance the feeling of a close family reunion—the kind of return home many of us are hungry for.
This Is the Week That Is didn’t leave me hungry for any more 2020 humor, but it didn’t sour me to the whole enterprise. After all, it was Charlie Chaplin who's credited with the line: “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it.” We need to make jokes, hyperbolize, and satirize in order to make sense of the world around us. In this way, 2020’s This Is the Week That Is taps into something deeply human.
Image description: A collage of screengrabs from a Zoom session, with a diverse group of six actors each in their own rectangular section. They’re all smiling or singing.
What, When, Where
This Is the Week That Is. By the 1812 ensemble, directed by Justin Jain. Streaming through January 3, 2021. Tickets and info at 1812productions.org.
There will be a Spanish-captioned performance of This Is the Week That Is on Tuesday, December 29; and an English-captioned performance on Wednesday, December 30.