The MET Theatre's presentation of "The Edge Of Allegiance III: Permanent Vacation, or Endless Bummer!" is a satiric rendition of the debatable events of recent American history. The title indicates an unsubtle reference to the current President's vacation time that he took early in his term. This theme is constantly, sometimes redundantly reinforced throughout the political satire. Fourteen actors play several roles in this show that takes place in Washington, D.C., South Dakota, Texas and Iraq.
This show focuses more on commenting on characters and to a lesser degree, events, than following a particular storyline. Strong actor Michael Oosterom plays a lazy, slow-witted Bush, Zachary Barton the more concerned Laura Bush, and Chane't Johnson is Condoleeza Rice, who carries a big torch for her "Caucasian man." The latter actress doubles as Colin Powell, who hitchhikes his way to Texas and is mistaken for Samuel L. Jackson by a Texas hick.
The loosely organized anti-Bushisms are more over-the-top than especially clever or original. More enjoyable was the interaction between the four presidents of Mt. Rushmore, squabbling over the proximity of each other's bad breath and the animals that nested in their stone facial features. They embark upon a road trip to save the President's endangered legacy, but are distracted by a trip to Disneyland. The opening night audience was clearly liberally inclined and so was primed to receive the Bush-bashing, that was overwhelmingly predominant despite the play's something-to-offend everyone claim. Jokes on John Kerry, well-played by striking look-alike Nathan Patrick, and a brief mockery of Bill Clinton were milder in degree and far less frequent. However Oosterom's portrayal of Bush was well-executed in mannerisms and voice, which greatly aided the old humor. Oosterom briefly doubled as Clinton and after sorting out the similarly frivolous characters, proved his adept mastery of an Arkansas accent as well.
Mocking everything from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal to the colorized terror threat levels, irreverently sung by the Muppets to open the second act, the show resorted more to appearance-based humor than truly shrewd wordplay, yet was definitely loaded with a sharp disdain for the current state of affairs in the United States. Adding to the out-there humor are the portrayals of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lynne Cheney by male actors.
While much of the material felt forced and overexposed, and was occasionally awkwardly delivered or fell flat, some raucous, simple comedy still drew scattered but loud laughs from an obviously liberal crowd. One notable portrayal was Joy Osmanski's depiction of Kim Jong II. Just her accent drew hearty laughs, and her fervently erratic speech as North Korea and Iran held auditions for the Axis of Evil was hilarious.
Opening night was a show clearly well-rehearsed but one that nevertheless could have been much tighter. During a few of the musical numbers, the actors' voice projection failed to rise above the music, rendering it impossible to understand all of what they were saying. Other slight sloppiness included a few scene endings where the actors began to dissemble their pose before the lights were fully extinguished.
The third installment of "The Edge of Allegiance" perhaps tried to top its two predecessors, yet came off a bit uneven. It is certainly a valid endeavor to present the current worldly affairs in an out-there sort of manner for the sake of entertainment or release, yet much of the wacky humor is dependent on the audience's liberal inclinations. The majority of the humor is not clever enough to transcend one's particular political leanings.
"The Edge Of Allegiance III: Permanent Vacation, or Endless Bummer!" plays July 9-31, 2004, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. at The MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood, 90029. This is one block east of Western Avenue and a few steps south of Santa Monica Blvd. Parking is available ½ block east of the venue in the Earl Scheib lot on a first-come, first-served basis. Admission is $15, except gala benefits July 9 & 16: $20. The gala benefits, which include show, reception, food and beverages, support peace group Not in Our Name on July 9, and Planned Parenthood on July 26. Student, senior and group discounts available upon request. PLAY7 passes accepted (for info, go to www.PLAY7.com). For reservations and information, call (323) 957-1152 or check out www.TheMETTheatre.com and www.TheEdgeOfAllegiance.com.