Saturday, October 4, 2008

"The Trojan Candidate" Blog Exclusive Review

Here's a review of  Theatre Oobleck's new production, The Trojan Candidate, running through November 3rd at the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N Ashland Avenue at Foster. Suggested donation $12, reservations at (773) 347-1041 or visit the website.

Dick Cheney has a problem. As many have suspected all along, Dick Cheney is actually an alien parasite which infects people's bodies and controls their actions. Unfortunately, his current host body doesn't have long to live, so it's up to Cheney to find someone new to infect and use to rule the world. Thanks to some Fantastic Voyage-style technology, he manages to enter the brains of all of the potential presidential candidates, and see which psyche will fit him best, and is most likely to win.

Such is the setup for Theatre Oobleck's cerebral and absurdist new satire The Trojan Candidate, written by Jeff Dorchen and Danny Thompson (who also appear in the play), and the rest of the cast. The idea is an extremely silly one, but the execution is erudite, filled with sophisticated political and cultural references. The production sometimes feels like a series of sketches rather than a play, and a number of long blackouts doesn't help this problem, but it still has more than enough laughs and a fascinating enough perspective to make it very worth seeing, and a cut above most of the political entertainments available this season.

Playwright Dorchen leads the cast as Cheney, giving the best interpretation of him that I've ever seen. He gets the look and sound perfectly, and also terrifyingly embodies the sheer disregard for the constitution and the happiness of others that has come to define Cheney. The rest of the five-member ensemble, playing several parts each, create many wicked political caricatures, including Sati Word's idealistic Barack Obama, co-author Thompson's splenetic John McCain, KellyAnn Corcoran's high-tension Hillary Clinton, and Diana Slickman's glum Lynne Cheney. However, all of the caricatures have in common that they go to deeper and stranger places than a "Saturday Night Live" sketch ever could.

Theatre Oobleck works without a director, and it sometimes shows in  the production--it could have used a slightly more ruthless hand to tighten op the parts that go too long. Still, you won't find political satire quite this smart or strange anywhere else in Chicago.


By the way, after reviewing The Trojan Candidate last night, I returned to the Neo-Futurarium to see their legendary Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, still running late nights after twenty years. I hadn't seen it since they gave a special performance at Northwestern my freshman year, and it's still exceptional. The goal is to do 30 plays in 60 minutes (they time it), with new plays being cycled in every week--there were 9 world premieres this weekend. The plays are funny, serious, and just plain weird, and it makes for a wild and delightful night out. If you haven't been, go, and if you have, go again.

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