insightful in-depth reviews

1, Dec 2017
Ensemble photo by John Flak

1812 Productions reports on Trump’s first year

by Steve Cohen
The Cultural Critic

This is the Week That Is. 1812 Productions, performing at Plays & Players Theatre in Philadelphia, December 2017.

This Is the Week That Is has returned, refreshed, this December. The annual spoof of TV news shows has been a staple from 1812 Productions for the past eleven years.

A few long-time favorites are missing from the cast this time, but the newcomers Rob Tucker and Jenson Titus Lavallee are outstanding. Tucker serves as comedian and musical director at the piano, while Lavallee is a wacky, loose-limbed presence. Director Jennifer Childs heads the cast, alongside the returning Dave Jadico, Sean Close and Susan Riley-Stevens, with head writer Don Montrey.

The opening is different than in the past, and very effective. A supposed spokesperson for management starts a welcoming speech but is interrupted as scenery and lights malfunction, and is replaced by a new spokesperson. He in turn is replaced, just as the Trump Administration has continually reshuffled its staff members.

The morning after I saw This Is the Week That Is, the imminent departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was reported. This reminded me how the Access Hollywood story broke during 1812’s special election edition in October 2016.

During the opening, Childs as Trump tweets that this audience is the largest of all time. When water pipes break and shower everyone onstage, Childs tosses rolls of paper towels to the wet people.

One of the highlights is a “And We Thought YOU Were Bad” segment in which cast members recall George W. Bush, Chris Christie, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney with mock affection, and Howard Dean re-emerges to reprise his notorious scream.

The show addresses more than politics. Childs, as “Patsy” from South Philly, dispenses wisdom from her stoop. And Riley-Stevens impersonates an angry local weather forecaster whom I’d like to see again in future editions. Tucker and Lavallee team up for a new routine called “Throw Shade,” which means to publicly criticize or ridicule someone. Their trash talk is hilarious in its parody of urban trash talk.

Jadico is outstanding when he conducts a person-on-the-street interview from the lobby, and when he does an amazingly fine impression of Jerry Seinfeld.

The production ends, as usual, with an ensemble vocal number. This time the choice is especially apt. “American Tune” sums up a turbulent year which has many of us feeling “confused” and “forsaken” about “what’s gone wrong” — as Paul Simon expressed in his lyric which he wrote during the Watergate crisis.

See our reports from last year, here and also here.

Below, Childs, Close & Riley-Stevens as Trump, Bush & Palin. Photo by Mark Garvin.