Review: The winter return of ‘This Is the Week That Is’

Why are “The Supremes” — Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan —  boogeying like that? And who is selling those drone missiles, with a lovely carrying case if you act now? Oh, I get it. Must be time for 1812 Productions’ annual skewering of all things current, “This Is the Week That Is.”

I write annual with reservations, because the last version of 1812 Productions’ successful franchise, based on an old NBC topical satire show that was based on an older BBC one, was May. But in theater years that counts as last season, so what’s unraveling these nights at Plays & Players is this season’s version, and it proves that you don’t need 12 months to cull new and funny material from the news. Especially after a Congressional election, which provides plenty of grist for these millers. (Both Republicans and Democrats get their shares of commentary.)

The show’s jokes run the spectrum, from zero to 10 on the laugh-o-meter. I went on Thursday, the night after the show opened; the eager opening-night supporters of 1812 Productions, ready to laugh heartily at any version of “This Is the Week That Is,” had been and gone. And now, the second-nighters were having a rocking good time. So was I.

This time Jennifer Childs, who runs the stage company, directed the show but is not performing in it. She and the entire cast write the bits, and one of this year’s players—Don Montrey – is chief writer for the news segment that takes up much of the second half. Greg Nix is a contributing writer, and a joke or two changes each night depending on the day’s news. The best segment of the news portion is done by Susan Riley Stevens, who reports on an official document ranking gender equality among nations. (There’s a lot of gender-equality themed material in the show, and more than a little Ebola,) The actual facts of the report are revealing, and the commentary Stevens delivers is sensible yet very funny.

Tabitha Allen, the show’s music director, acts with the other performers – Scott Greer, Aimé Donna Kelly and Dave Jadico. They portray, at various times, folks whose work-out routines represent different political orientations; planets who must decide whether to welcome Pluto back into their fold; and, in a really cool sketch, they are the corporations now treated under federal law as having the same rights as people.

They also are impressively versatile – if you go to the theater here regularly, you’ll see some of them popping up in roles written by Shakespeare. There’s even some Shakespeare here, from “The Merchant of Venice LLC.” In “This Is the Week That Is,” the Bard is welcome. But only as long as he’s good for a laugh.

_“This Is the Week That Is,” produced by 1812 Productions, runs through Dec. 31 at Plays & Players, Delancey Street between 17th and 18th Streets. 215-592-9560 or www.1812productions.org.

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