Review: The Totalitarians
It’s quite easy to see Sarah Palin as the inspiration for Penelope Easter, the dumb-as-a-corn-husk (or is she?) candidate for lieutenant governor of Nebraska in playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s The Totalitarians. A former roller derby queen, Penny’s got the hair, the firepower and the fear-instilling ability to go off-script and shoot from the lip.
Sounds like Donald Trump, too, you say? The play premiered in 2014 before Trump became, well, Trump, but it seems terrifyingly accurate now.
This unsettling satirical comedy is equal parts bizarre and hysterical. It centers on Francine (a tightly wound Kelley Ogden), a frustrated speechwriter whose goal is to help elect the seemingly unelectable Penny (Jamie Jones, a force of nature who leaves little on stage standing. save the sturdy walls of designer Stephen Decker’s ingenious set). With one magical speech, Penny becomes viable and Francine can look forward to possibly leaving Nebraska for the big time.
Their only obstacles: Francine’s doctor husband Jeffrey (Cassidy Brown, an engaging everyman type) and an aspiring revolutionary named Ben (the delightfully off-kilter Casey Worthington), who intend to stop Penny or die trying.
Director Peter Mohrmann clearly relishes all this delicious absurdity, seemingly giving free rein to his actors as it all goes wackadoodle into hilarious obscenity, vulgarity, sex of all sorts and violence that leaves some characters choking to death and the audience choking back tears of laughter.