‘Districtland’: Short on plot and long on cliches, but still hilariously, painfully true


The cast of “Districtland.” (Cristina Bejan/Bucharest Inside the Beltway)

“Districtland” opens with a recitation of familiar D.C. cliches — actress Robin Freeman standing beneath a spotlight bemoaning the “rat race” and declaring the city the “capital of the free world” — and spends the next 90 minutes lovingly skewering them.

The play, part of the Capital Fringe festival, focuses on a crew of archetypal Washingtonian roommates. There’s Frank, a harried unpaid Hill intern; Maria, a Rhodes scholar with a job in the State Department and a cellphone glued to her ear; Charity, a returned Peace Corps volunteer who works for a nonprofit but dreams of writing poetry; and Dave, an unemployed recent law school graduate with a trust fund and a penchant for “networking.” Over the course of a day, the four play out a series of equally stereotypical experiences: Dave fails to call back a Tinder hookup. Type-A Maria gets hit on by a much older congressman. Charity slowly wilts answering phones at her day job while Frank, the intern, can’t get his boss to remember his name.

Though “Districtland” is well-stocked with all the key components of a Dupont happy hour, it struggles to piece them together into a story. The play’s frenetic scene changes and numerous supporting characters distract from the central plot, and the climactic argument between Maria and Dave about gentrification, authenticity and pointlessness of trying to effect change in “this town” feels contrived.

But in its best moments, “Districtland” hilariously taps into the kinds of D.C. experiences that only a Washingtonian will understand: Frank furiously and unsuccessfully tapping and retapping his SmarTrip card, Charity proclaiming “I curse the day they put Internet on phones,” Dave’s aggressively schmoozy girlfriend constantly asking, “So, what do you do?” These are the moments that will have audience members with tears in their eyes — either because they’re laughing so hard, or because it’s all a bit too real.

‘Districtland’

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, 2:15 p.m. Saturday, 9 p.m. July 23 and 6:15 p.m. July 27 at Redrum - Fort Fringe, 612 L St. NW. 866-811-4111. www.capitalfringe.org. $17 plus the one-time purchase of a Fringe button. 90 minutes.

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