“Satire,” said American playwright and humorist George S. Kaufman, “is what closes Saturday night.”
That quote came to mind as I sat in the audience at the Super Bowl Sunday matinee of Impeaching America at the Belrose in San Rafael. Actually, I was the audience at that particular performance. The allegorical political satire by Elizabeth Cady runs through Feb. 24.
“America” (Robin Schild) is frustrated, disillusioned and exhausted after 200-plus years of existence with little to show for it, so he wants out. In deference to the U.S. Constitution, he seeks to exercise its Articles of Impeachment and prosecute himself in a trial before the “most honored, revered and holy Godd” (David Chavez) and the “most unholy, evil and feared Satann” (Jude Haukom). America lays six counts before the court: neglect of duties, usurping powers from the people, misappropriation of funds, abuse of official power, corruption and betrayal of trust.
America’s court-appointed defenders are P. B. Devine (Matt Witthaus), I. Karras (Claudia Rosa) and, as a “shadow council,” Dom Tyrann (Nan Ayers.) They appear to represent conservatism, liberalism and “the voice of reason.”
And so the trial begins, touching on everything from Manifest Destiny to the exploding national debt, with Roe v. Wade, climate change denial, gender inequality and Bill Clinton’s Oval Office blowjob among the things entered into evidence.
Director Joey Hoeber has a decent cast and a rather nice set on the tiny Belrose stage with which to work, but it’s the script that’s problematic. Somewhere in this two-plus-hour examination of everything that’s wrong with our country is an 80-minute show looking to burst out. Hell, TV’s Law & Order was able to give us a criminal investigation and trial in under an hour. It’s an interesting idea and there are some good moments, but there’s a whole lot of heavy-handed preaching to the choir going on here to no discernible point.
From a historical perspective, playwright Cady needs to look back and remember that Edward Everett’s two-hour, 13,607-word oration is not the speech we remember given at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg.
From a theatrical perspective, Cady might heed these words from a fairly successful playwright from a few years back: “Brevity,” said Shakespeare, “is the soul of wit.”
‘Impeaching America’ runs Friday–Sunday through Feb. 24 at the Belrose, 1415 Fifth Ave., San Rafael. Friday–Saturday, 7:30pm; Saturday–Sunday, 2pm. $20–$25. 925.890.7411. thebelrose.com.