Presented by Boston Center for American Performance and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
Written by Robert Brustein
Directed by Steven Bogart
Compositions by Mark Bruckner
Musical direction by Catherine Stornetta
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston, MA) Normally, I adore a good potty-mouthed political satire. I feel less alone knowing that my fellow humans also think that the Govt., its politicians, and processes are broken. As Republicans, Democrats, Independents, etc, we can all agree that the system needs an overhaul. Satires give me a modicum of hope for the future.
Exposed is New England liberal family fun with a side of conservative truthiness. Brustein takes potshots at both extremes of the political spectrum but he saves the majority of his ire for conservative, fundamentalist “Christian” Republicans. Be that as it may, depending on your frame of reference, this play can be misunderstood as leftist propaganda. Because the line is so vague between satire and propaganda, I found it only moderately entertaining.
We are delivered unto the Texan home of the Sackeroffs amidst an epically proportioned patriarchal tantrum of Daddy Sackeroff (Jeremiah Kissel). He has been shystered by preacher and genital self-cooling enthusiast Dick Cockburn* (Michael Hammond). Sackeroff is determined to purchase for Cockburn, a Texas Senate seat. In a plot twist that surprises exactly no one, it turns out Cockburn is a hypocrite. The play continues until Sackeroff’s family convinces him of Cockburn’s fallacies.
Most of this production’s focus is on Brustein’s text. The actors worked very hard on spitting the complicated dialogue out. To this end, the acting came close to second. This isn’t because the actors gave it a back seat but because Brustein puts so much emphasis on his text. Bogart’s direction lent itself well to Brustein’s writing so as to highlight the actor’s work. Yet, even if the actors had been flailing like mad to get our attention, we’d still be viewing it from in front of the text first.
The student and professional elements were at times incongruous with each other. For example, Brustein has written into his script brief episodes of rhythm and rhyme in the Commedia dell’arte style. Such dialogue diversions are preceded by a cued chime and an abrupt change in the lights. These useful devices indicate to the audience that the cast is intentionally switching between verse and prose. Or, they would do if the cues were consistent with the heroic cast’s alternation between styles. Similar sentiment (but not application) can also be applied to costumes.
The musical performances by this cast of actors were off-kilter. Exposed is not a musical; it is not attempting to be. But, it’s as if the musical numbers were transposed from an entirely different show, using different actors, into this one. Frankly, the cast went dead in the eyes. It was strange.
The scenic design by Mary Sader redeemed many of the play’s weaker points. Sader has created a Texan man-child’s clubhouse to equal that of the trophy room in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. We’re sucked into the psyche of Sackeroff whether we want to or not. It is equal parts chilling and thrilling.
Brustein has written a script that audience-goers will either love or distinctly not give two shakes about. The influence of Moliere’s is immediate. Brustein’s loyal dedication to Tartuffe is exemplary. For all intents and purposes, this should be an hilarious poke at modern politics but it left me cold. Like The Office, It’s too truthful to be painless. It sits too close to my own political beliefs and makes me uncomfortable. My lovely date for the evening thought it marvelously funny. It is up to you to decide if it’s what you want to see.
*This name sets a precedent for the show. Don’t like toilet-humor? Don’t attend.