Hot dog politicos are a picnic in this satire
By Sullivan Alfred-Sanford, GLOB Guest Reviewer
In its latest production of Hometown Knights, The Acrosstown Repertory Theatr introduces us to the city of Fainburg, obsessed with sports, politics, and hotdogs, not necessarily in that order. Regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit on, comparisons to 2016 sitting senators and governors are impossible to deny. In Hometown Knights, the characters take many wrong turns and try to cover them up with hotdog puns and condiment banter. The result is both well-seasoned and delicious.
As the nation is currently em-"broiled" in an election cycle, the Hometown Knights audience can easily identify with the characters and issues that Director Chuck Lipsig, and Jessica Arnold has introduced. Social issues are replaced with politically-biased hot dog ordinances and election reforms that ensure incumbent victory. Dead candidates are prequalified for a mayoral run and a legitimate candidate is rendered politically impotent. Empty promises are applauded, while reform is shamed. The production, however, diverges from 2016 poltical campaigns by remaining engaging and entertaining.
The leads, Nicky (played by Meagan Reagle) and Frankie (played by D'Andre Carter), are political consultants to a small town mayor. Mayor Perry Halfgallon (played by Dean Carvalho) has been mayor for 30 years and has left a wake of political foes in less than good condition. Through fear mongering, Mayor Halfgallon has remained unchallenged for nearly 15 years of his 30-year tenure. The Mayor's voice has two volumes, loud and much louder. He is self-absorbed, arrogant, and mostly oblivious. Nicky and Frankie are the true brains of the operation, and that isn't saying much. Nicky matches being temperamental tit for tat with Frankie's debilitating naiveté. In their pursuit of "justice" which is simply due credit for their work on behalf of the town, mixed in with just a bit of old school revenge, Nicky and Frankie will stop at nothing. The power couple are true imagineers in the line of television actor Don Knotts and TV wrestler Randy Macho Man Savage as they set up a perfect game of political chess. They host a roll call of potential pawns for their shenanigans and settle on retired athlete and local hero Tom Jones (played by Adam Lishawa). He is innocent, moral, upright, and inexperienced--the perfect patsy. Tom Jones' greatest asset is his fame, and both his sports record and political inexperience are lambasted throughout the contentious campaign and debate circuit.
As in all that is politically scandalous, the town and its future is of minor concern to either of the Hometown Knights as they battle for the Mayor's Office. The Knights prepare for an epic battle and it is winner takes all. Will the homerun hero overtake the hotdog king or will Tom Jones be counted out at the plate? During the showdown, the establishment is pitted against a political outsider and only Nicky and Frankie can sort out the message from the civic rubble. Don't expect any fact checking from either side. The truth will not gain the acknowledgement or accolades that Nicky and Frankie seek so it is avoided at all cost. By the end, the audience cannot determine whether the Hometown Knights are Mayor Perry Halfgallon and Tom Jones or Nicky and Frankie. However, it is clear that the town remains unprotected as a gateway for the political ambition.
Political satire runs throughout this production, and political ridiculousness, running amuck, connects the audience to the town of Fainburg by pairing people and politicians through the lowest common denominators of self-interest and the pursuit of ultimate power. Of course the legitimization of high profile politics requires a group of gullible "sheeple" to be believable. Lipsig provides the gullibility component in the form of a chorus. The chorus (played by Saylor McKinley, Victor Moser, Mandy Fugate, and Chuck Lipsig) plays multiple roles and makes the audience want to sing along.
Thanks to the set design by Jessica Arnold and Adam Lishawa many times during the play the chorus sits with the audience, expanding the town and recreating the realism of a true political juggernaut. In fact, the political system becomes the sixth character in the production.
Major news networks could not hold a candle to the active coverage of this campaign and I shudder to imagine their vain attempt.
Oscar Wilde once said "There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." Hometown Knights barbecues that premise and presents it well done. Just how far will people go for their personal ambitions? Hometown Knights proves that the standard varies with your level of rationality and sanity. Fortunately, both are in short supply, and the audience is grateful for that omission.
This world premier production of Hometown Knights continues with weekend performances through January 31, 2016 and should not be missed. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more Hometown Knights production information.