City Paper is not for tourists
MARIA: I bought you a Groupon for this weekend—a wine tasting.
HAMISH: Why not LivingSocial? They’re local, you know.
Aw yes, Districtland is back. After an unlikely hit run at the Capital Fringe festival, the D.C.-based yuppie dramedy has returned as a web series pilot.
Premiering tonight at the Miracle Theatre, the new Districtland is much better than its predecessor. For example, no one in this new version says the classic Districtland cringe line, “D.C., C.V.”
That doesn’t mean it’s actually good, though.
Like the rudderless characters of Districtland, I find myself trapped in an unhappy rut of my own, having reviewed the play two years ago. Once again, I have to put down the ambitions of the well-meaning people who made a production where unlikable characters do nonsensical things. And once again, I have to tell you that this is probably best enjoyed as hate-watching, if you have a half-hour to kill on a D.C. parody of Girls.
Districtland‘s pilot begins with protagonist Maria—a West Wing DVD-owning type—getting dumped by her boyfriend via PowerPoint. (I’ve read Dilbert, too!) But Maria’s day gets worse when, meeting with a congressman as part of her unspecified do-gooder plan, she gets propositioned.
“I would never want to interrupt a conversation between a father and a daughter,” the congressman growls when Maria pulls out her phone. “Family.“
Spooky! Still, I wanted Maria to bone the congressman so at least something would happen. Instead, the only sex in this episode occurs in an unsatisfying coupling between Maria’s roommates. There’s Catherine—a kind of horned-up defense contractor who says things like “Who’s ready to talk MRAPs?”—and Dave, an unemployed lawyer. They have sex in their group house’s living room, which is inconsiderate.
Districtland‘s barely-there plot centers on a mystery progressive group Catherine is launching to do… something. She organizes a meeting at a poetry slam, where still another roommate reads a poem about orgasms.
The first Districtland tried to make up for its aimlessness with a comically ill-paced fight about race in the District. The pilot opts for a similar blow-up.
“I don’t even like white guys,” says Maria.
“Whoa whoa whoa, what’s wrong with white guys?” says a white guy.
By the way, when Maria says the thing about white guys, a black guy leans into the frame, like “Oh really?” The laughs keep coming.
(The show’s racial politics are not great. By dropping a bunch of the play’s unconvincing foreign accents and opting not to call the black character with a speaking role “the lone D.C. native,” though, the new Districtland is practically enlightened.)
For a show that’s ostensibly about people trying to make a difference, Districtland makes a pretty compelling case for political nihilism. The congressman tells Maria that no one can make a difference anymore, while Catherine rebuffs her roommate’s request to compost her food.
“Turning my banana peel into dirt isn’t going to change a thing in this world,” she says.
I found myself agreeing. If nothing else, after devoting so much effort to a set of characters no one wanted to see again, the new Districtland makes a good argument against recycling.