Angsty times we live in these days, with Donald Trump in the White House. Some of my more conservative friends still cheer him on. One of my oldest friends thinks that his speech in Poland was magnificent. If it was, he was delivering words some one else wrote. No crime certainly, politicians have speechwriters. But any pose as a statesman flies in the face of the nearly universal rejection of Trump as a world leader. Certainly no foreign country of any significance follows him into the sad rejection of the Paris accord. Trump’s main value these days is as comedy fodder. For that he is a satirical gold mine.
Open Fist Theatre Company’s latest offering is called Welcome to Your Alternate Reality, an evening of twenty-four short scenes, call them comedy sketches, that parody the age of Trump and evoke hearty laughter from a Southern California audiences whose position vis-à-vis the tweeter-in-chief is firmly negative. Most of the scenes are stand alone, but one set of scenes has a through line. A smart young journalist (Emily Tuñon) is hired for her first a job as a television reporter only to find, ruefully, that she must mouth scripts extolling Trumpian positions. Her proud, cranky grandpa (Josh Banday) shows up in several subsequent scenes, one, significantly, a chess game in withering heat with an equally cranky climate change denier (Bjørn Johnson) entitled “A Friendly Game of Chess on Planet Hell.”
Not all the sketches are aimed at Trump specifically, but rather reveal takes on the current social climate. In “Compliments of the Chef,” a couple at a table in a nice restaurant that met via the Internet is unsuited. The man (Dylan Maddalena), a transparent horn-dog, has one goal in mind, while the young woman (charming, vivacious Kiley Eberhardt) is saved by an interventionist waiter (Micah Watterson) who knows what is what. One of the highlights of the evening occurs when Ms. Eberhardt caps off a terrific scene by delivering a superb performance of William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming,” ending with the famous lines:
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Lane Allison, Tisha Terrasini Banker, Beth Robbins, and Bryan Bertone stepping in for Paul Mischeshin, round out a terrific cast of committed comedians.
The scenic design by James Spencer is simple, colorful and pleasingly functional, with lighting designed by Dan Reed. Sound design by Tim Labor features an industrial techno-beat soundscape that perfectly punctuates the scenes. Kudos goes to Bruce Dickenson and Ina Shumaker who assembled the necessary props.
Welcome to Your Alternate Reality is not subtle comedy, but rather in-your-face lampooning, akin to something one might see on “Saturday Night Live” only better, smarter and funnier. The short scripts are written and directed by Catherine Butterfield and Ron West, who go for broke. The comedy is sharp, insightful and very, very physical, bordering on slapstick. In brief, Open Fist has a triumph with this raucous evening of satire, which runs through August 12 at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue in Los Angeles.