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A CurtainUp Review
Capitol Steps: Unzippiní MyDoodah<

By Ruth Gerchick

Would summer be the same without a new version of Capitol Steps? Itís hard to imagine. But donít trouble. The troupe, composed of former Congressional staffers around since the reign of Reagan, is again packing them in at the John Houseman Theater. The round of musical parodies, called Unzippiní My Doodah is, naturally, about you know who--Bill, Hillary, Monica, Linda, Kenneth and their supporting cast of diplomats and arrivistes. But though the actors are pros and the staging by Mark Waldrop more than efficient,the subject is so deeply mined that itís hard to extract more than a minimum of gem material.

Among the more luminous: Newt Gingrich made a splendid phantom of the opera.and Al Gore as a robot climbing up and down the Capitol Steps was amusing.. But more compelling was the beautifully sung Circle of Lies pairing the animal kingdom of The Lion King with human hierarchy inside the beltway.

The night I attended, the talented Elaina Newport threw her heart into the parts of both Hillary and Monica and Mike Telford had Bill running through the gamut of presidential emotions-- especially in a crying scene where he relates how Hillary stood by his side through all the Gates, but is suddenly struck with an insight: Hillary is bad luck.

Jamie Zemarel did a spirited Bob Dylan, changing his tune readily for an uptight Bob Dole; the lilting voice of Delores King William added pleasure to many of the scenes. But clearly, it was once again Bill Straussís innovative , expansive backward talk that topped the show -- as in, "You Norka" and "She was hexually soreassed."

However, as a midsummer offering, Unzippiní My Doodah is more a sparkler than a firecracker. While most of the parodies are new the format having weathered 16 years shows signs of fatigue. The proceedings are further impeded by unevenness. There are some wonderful sequences, but not enough of them to offset the wispy confections that disappoint. A good example of the more hilarious, well-developed skits, there's "Boris Alive," in which aides hold up a drunken Boris Yeltsin as he struggles for a statesmanlike stance. Unfortunately there were fewer of these than shorter pieces that whizzed by as fast and unsatisfyingly as a Joan Riverís buckle-up tape in a New York taxi -- for example, "Pataki", "Itís DíAmato" and "IRS Guys"." The audience response was as rushed as these pieces, a quick chuckle instead of a crescendo of laughter

Having seen an earlier Capitol Steps production, the show hasnít changed enough for a repeat viewing. On the other hand , ifI expected to get the same kick out of this one. Unfortunately it didnít happen. Either Iíve changed or you come to it fresh, you might find enough in the Strauss back talk, the troupeís enthusiasm and the occasional sparks to make it a pleasant summer night out.

UNZIPPINí MY DOODAH AND OTHER NATIONAL PRIORITIES
Conceived, Written and Directed by Bill Strauss and Elaina Newport
Set Design: R. J. Matson
Lighting Design: Marina Bridges
Prop and Costume Design: Robyn Scott
Sound Design: Jill Duboff
Technical Director: Brad Van Grack
John Houseman Theater 450 West 42nd Street 212/489-6745
7/09/98-9/5/98; opening 7/15/98
Reviewed 7/20 by Ruth Gerchick
broadwaynewyork.com


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