On loan from Chicago, comedy troupe The Second City is back at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, this time with their production of A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics. As you no doubt surmised from the title, the group skewers our nation’s recent leaders and the increased lunacy in today’s political debate. Aided by a set that resembles a metro platform, there’s even room for some DC-centric jokes. Topics include Todd Palin’s unhappy marriage, Nancy Pelosi’s pervasive bitterness, and, of course, the horrors of commuting. Some bits work better than others, but with performers of this caliber, you can always be sure there are more hilarious moments than there are misfires.
The pace and scope of the proceedings imbue A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics with a pleasantly frenetic pace. Some punchlines are rapid-fire, and several bits wrap up in a matter of minutes. They serve as a warm-up for longer monologues and sketches. An early highlight comes in the form Rebecca Sohn’s Hilary Clinton impression, whose fiery rhetoric sounds increasingly like that of a professional wrestler. Other sketches, like a song-and-dance number about tea party idiots, mock the easiest of political targets. Actually, the ensemble is at their strongest when they’re singing. A ditty about Senators’ wives is catchy and funny in equal measure. And the first act concludes with a brilliant mini-opera (all in Italian) about Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination. By embracing highbrow and lowbrow humor in the same sketch, they skillfully make light of collective disenchantment.
As the show continues, the five actors (four women, one dude) each have a chance to show off their strengths. The aforementioned Sohn is at her best with deadpan seriousness. Brooke Breit, on the other hand, is cheerfully spastic. Lori McClain strikes a good balance between Sohn and Breit, and her Pelosi-as-a-comedian monologue demonstrates witty insight about the future minority leader. Joey Bland defies his surname, and his goofy looks help undermine his high-profile targets. Finally, Lili-Anne Brown is the most comfortable with audience interaction, particularly as she improvises her way through a flirtatious song about Doug, a writer sitting in a front row. A few sketches, such as a pseudo-insightful dialog about racial transcendence, regrettably overstay their welcome. Still, the group reenergizes when they switch to improv, deftly proving they have considerable chops and razor-sharp timing.
If you’re like me and need a little levity from partisan rancor, then A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics is the perfect tonic. But if the group asks you to suggest a name of someone famous, please don’t offer someone who’s only famous-for-DC. Seriously, Woman Who Sat Directly In Front of Me, what were you thinking?