At Capital Fringe, ‘Madam Ambassador’ isn’t a shrewd operator but is not without its charms

Philip Holt/Philip Holt - Patricia Magno as the conniving heroine in Duke Ryan's play, "Madam Ambassador," at the DC Capital Fringe Festival.

Remember the photo meme that assigned pictures to “What my mom thinks I do,” “What my friends think I do” and “What I actually do”? There was one for every profession and it consumed Facebook for a time because everyone thought the one about his or her specific profession was the only one that was truly funny. “Madam Ambassador,” a satire about diplomats written by former diplomat Duke Ryan, is probably really funny to people who have worked in the foreign service. To the rest of us, it’s a slightly clunky story about a bored wealthy woman (Patsy Magno) who buys herself an ambassadorship to Copenhagen and then has to play some dirty politics in order to . . . well, it’s not entirely clear. There are large sums of money involved, and some obnoxious political types who need to be humiliated and get their comeuppance in the end.

Ryan puts some good lines in the mouths of his characters, and while the scenario is convoluted, it’s not inherently a bad plot. In fact, it resembles one of those dizzy romantic comedies from the 1930s that didn’t always make sense but was enjoyable because of all the running and pratfalling. If only the Shop space at Fort Fringe had more room for running and pratfalling!

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The show drags because the actors often seem to have trouble remembering their lines, and in at least one case an actor is still surreptitiously on book. We see that script on your desk, masquerading as papers, Madam. Perhaps once the actors find their feet, the whole thing will be faster and lighter, and the diplomats in the audience won’t be the only ones guffawing.

Zublin is a freelance writer.

Madam Ambassador

Written by Duke Ryan. Directed by George Grant. 90 minutes. Through July 27 at Capital Fringe Festival. Visit www.capfringe.org.

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