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Texas congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul is the leading advocate for freedom in our nation—or so says the MySpace page of the man with a not-so-commanding sixth place lead among Republican candidates for 2008. At the very least, he’s the favored candidate of cast members of City in a Swamp’s latest production, Primary Urges, which takes inspiration from the doomed-to-lose races of Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd, and Tom Tancredo.
“It’s all about the egotism of running for office when you know you don’t even have a chance,” says Nicholas Zill, the producer, director, and lyricist of the musical revue.
In Primary Urges, a composite of all great political nobodies can be found in Floyd Flotsam (Doug Smith), a representative from Florida who is “the least important member of the most important Congress”—a lyric his aides sing to him throughout the show. Ignored by reporters and desperate for some recognition, he hires political consultant S. Tan Majestyk (Michael Bruno) to raise his profile, and Majestyk’s first recommendation is a run for the presidency—followed by an affair with a staffer and a slew of ridiculous-but-popular policies, such as Medi-Kitty, universal health care for pets.
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Much of the cast is no stranger to political satire, having previously worked together in Hexagon, another political revue group. But with other well-known political troupes such as Gross National Product and the Capitol Steps crowding the market for political humor, launching another might seem nearly as quixotic as a no-hoper presidential race.
“We’re working against name recognition,” says Zill. “We have a storyline, original music, and satire; Capitol Steps is two-minute [sketches], a quick laugh, then it’s onto the next one.”
The gags in the show are geared more toward District residents than tourists, and those who know a little more about politics than your average voter will laugh harder. Zill takes a jab at Northern Virginia’s Glebe Road (“Every time I ever get lost, I always end up on it,” he says) and works in a line about Rep. William Jefferson (Flotsam asks why his office freezer didn’t come with money inside).
Though City in a Swamp’s approach to political comedy runs the risk of being too obscure, the satire in Primary Urges remains fresh and accessible, performed by a cast of longtime Washingtonians who have perfected the quirks and habits of our nation’s deciders. Rachael Goldman, who plays Hillary Clinton, has had plenty to work with lately. “I’ve been studying her laugh,” says Goldman, who’s mastered the senator’s robotic cackling.
In the ultimate act of nonpartisanship, the show’s jokes are aimed at politicians both red and blue. “Conservatives in the audience have laughed a lot,” says Zill. “It’s a Washington show. We try to be evenhanded, even though we’re leaning left.” The latter bit is certainly true: A quick straw poll reveals that Hillary and Obama are neck and neck for the presidency among cast and crew. That is, of course, assuming Ron Paul doesn’t get a bid.
The performances begin at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, to Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Warehouse Theater, 1017n1021 7th St. NW. $15n$25. (202) 783-3933.