Arts & Events

THEATER REVIEW: Mime Troupe: "For the Greater Good, or The Last Election'--Free, in the Parks

By Ken Bullock
Thursday July 19, 2012 - 08:28:00 PM

"OCCUPY might not need a leader, but it could use a poster child!' It's summer and the SF Mime Troupe's back in the parks, this time with an inverted, updated melodrama: taking off from Dion Boucicault's 'The Poor of New York' (also Scorsese's starting point for 'The Gangs of New York'), itself adapted from 'Les Pauvres de Paris,' originally about the financial panics of the 1830s and 50s ... "for the Greater Good, or The Last Election.' 

Tipping OCCUPY and the hedge fund crashes into the doubling framework of the potboiler, SFMT comes up with the destitute Mrs. Fairweather (Keiko Shimosato Carreiro), out in the Civic Center camp, "amid the cardboard and the compost" with the protesters, awaiting the return of her daughter Lucy (Velina Brown), deployed from Afghanistan, as 1%-er Gideon Bloodgood (Ed Holmes) welcomes back his beloved kid Alida (Lisa Hori-Garcia) with the gift of a Congressional seat--while she's decided to run away with the 99% circus as "Tanya." Unbeknownst to the Fairweathers, Bloodgood did away with Mrs. Fairweather's husband during an earlier panic, saving his bank with Fairweather funds ... (The surnames and some of the "plot points" are unchanged from Boucicault's original.) 

In quick order, Lucy Fairweather's recruited by Bloodgood as his candidate, as he's being pressed by blackmailer Jack Badger (Victor Toman), and shadowed by mysterious, "caped" Damien Landless (Reggie D. White) of the Occupiers, who turns out to be a drama coach ... Will the downtrodden one-percenters convince the rest that it's lonelier at the top? 

Michael Gene Sullivan has written and directed something that in a way takes the Mime Troupe back a banana step towards their roots ... I remember as a not-so-wee lad, hitch-hiking into the city to catch the Troupe in, say, Washington Square, performing old Commedia plays with all the comic physical style, while voicing (and ad-libbing) social satire, sometimes as asides. 

Mort Sahl, another great generator of asides, defined the great divide in American comedy of late between the parody-ers and the satirists ... The past few years of SFMT shows, I often felt I was watching a skilled live send-up of a TV show, a corner American theater on the whole has painted itself into. With 'The Last Election,' it's at least refreshing, and often pointed and amusing: the very talented players can mug and do the stylized turns of the old vaudeville hams, with eccentric poses copped from silent films—a great burlesque show—yet zing the establishment with asides and a cockeyed logic taking off from the potboiler at hand, turned upside-down. 

It's all in dire good fun. Pat Moran's written some tart songs and leads the multi-instrumentalist band (Joel Fadness and Michael Bello) through a pre-show set, then the perfect accompaniment to the Troupe's apotheosis ... 

And such sobering thoughts emerge, like from a fortune cookie, worthy of a latter-day (but committed) Confucius: "If I were worthy of having a job--I'd already have it!" ... "If history has shown us anything, it's that Ayn Rand was right!" ... "I may have lost a daughter--but I've gained a candidate!" 

Picnic or just loll in the park, while LOL-ing with and at the Mime Troupe—and the State of the Union. 

This Saturday, 1:30 (music) & 2 (show) at Mosswood Park, Oakland; Wednesday-Thursday August 1-2 (6:30-7) at Lakeside Park, Oakland; Saturday-Sunday, 4-5 (1:30-2), Live Oak Park, Berkeley; Thursday August 24 (6:30-7), Montclair Ballfield; Saturday-Sunday August 25-26 (1:30-2), Willard Park, Berkeley.