Rated 4.0

KOLT Run Creations’ second local effort is excellent—and funny—political theater. Constance Congdon’s play Lips takes a look at the intersection of sex, morality and high-powered politics. Although it was written in the aftermath of the Clinton administration’s intern sex scandal, the play remains as timely as, let’s say, Jim McGreevey, Mark Foley, David Vitter, Larry Craig and Eliot Spitzer.

Oh, wait. Those guys were all, well, men.

So what would happen if the first female president deliberately initiated a sex scandal to draw attention to the nation’s sexist double-standard? What if she upped the ante, introducing a lesbian relationship into the national discussion? And what part does media manipulation play in Americans’ rush to distract ourselves with celebrity sex (for politicians are surely celebrities) so that we don’t have to discuss real issues?

Yep, it’s a thinking play. But thanks to pitch-perfect delivery from Shelly Sandford (President Joni) and Kelley Ogden (Rachel), there are also plenty of laughs, including a few jokes that require explanation for the queerly-impaired. Sandford and Ogden generate a very different kind of chemistry from what they stirred up in the Elly-nominated Keely and Du, but they create a sexy tension that makes certain necessary elements of the play work very well, and it’s funny even if you can’t tell a two-margarita dyke from a LUG. Sandford’s buttoned-up president positively sparkles with repressed rage, and Ogden has a gift for wide-eyed naiveté that makes her delivery of zinger-style lines even funnier. Both make quick work of Andy (Brian Rife), the appropriately smarmy political operative with just enough soul to make us hope he’s redeemable.

The production itself keeps it simple, which works in such an intimate setting and with a play that relies so heavily on both language and ideas. But some of that language is a bit rough, and all of the ideas are unsettling, so this isn’t a play for kids—but it’s precisely what political theater ought to be.

Now, to add a few items to Hillary’s agenda.