Political satire more scary than funny


October 09, 2004|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

In case the Department of Homeland Security's terrorism color code isn't entertaining enough, imagine what could happen if the department actually hired someone to keep the American public amused.

That's the premise of Fever Pitch, a political satire by New York's Under the Table Theatre, which has arrived at the Theatre Project just in time to change a few votes.

The three-person show has its clever, comical moments, but in the end, it's scarier than it is funny, and that's probably the point.

The show begins with an excessively jolly man, Clyde (Matt Chapman), and woman, Trish (Liz Turkel), explaining that they are a PR team brought here by Homeland Security to help: 1) clear up misconceptions, and 2) give back to the community through support of the arts.

To do this, they have engaged the services of an entertainer - or as they refer to him, an "artist" - by the name of Klyftan von Qlvdn. As Klyftan, Greg Maupin does quirky dances, a little ventriloquism, plays the ukulele and sings by emitting either nonsense syllables or imitating a kazoo.

Unlike Clyde and Trish, who wear partial face masks, Klyftan is bare-faced. In other words, while the spin doctors are faceless flunkies, Klyftan is an individual. And though the two flacks keep raving about how wonderful Klyftan's act is, they constantly interrupt his performance to launch into bits of their own.

For example, when Klyftan begins working with the ventriloquist's dummy, Trish steps forward and says that she, too, was once a dummy, a fool for freedom. She and Clyde then perform a parody of Gloria Gaynor's disco hit, "I Will Survive" that includes the lyrics: "First I was afraid, I was petrified/How could I ever learn to live without my Bill of Rights? ... Those old-fashioned civil liberties aren't needed anymore."

Near the end, Clyde and Trish present what they call a "montage." Wearing an American flag as a cape, Clyde chases and attacks Trish, who is clad in a garbage bag (they presumably represent the forces of good and evil, respectively). While this is going on, Klyftan stands at the back, totally upstaged, with his hand covering his eyes.

After Clyde and Trish make their exit, Klyftan is left standing there. The artist, the individual, is ignored and forgotten. A spooky, quiet conclusion, it's also the strongest, most unsettling moment in the piece.

Fever Pitch runs only an hour, so as a curtain-raiser, the Theatre Project has brought in Bob Heck, founder of the local troupe The Loyal Opposition, whose motto is: "Irreverence is next to Godliness."

To the keyboard accompaniment of David Zee, Heck performs 15 minutes of more traditional shtick, starting with an impersonation of President Clinton and concluding with his take on Vice President Dick Cheney (who marches off chanting, "Right, right, no left, right, right ... ").

Heck's Clinton parody is especially good (according to his Web site, he performed it at the White House for Clinton himself). A good intro for the evening, Heck's antics whet the appetite not only for Fever Pitch, but also for a larger helping of the Loyal Opposition.

Fever Pitch

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 3 p.m. Oct. 10, 6 p.m. Oct. 17

Tickets: $16

Call: 410-752-8558

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