Raise your hand if you’re surprised that the Capital Fringe Festival, in the heart of Washington, has a lot of plays with political themes. Put your hand down; you look like an idiot. This weekend offers multiple opportunities to see shows about presidents, political pandering and policy, so if you’re not already sick of those things (and want to love Teddy Roosevelt even more than you did when he FINALLY won the Nats’ mascot race), here’s your lineup.
How do retired foreign service officers keep busy? In the case of Henry “Duke” Ryan, they write plays — thus “Madam Ambassador” (The Shop at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave. NW). It’s a satire on the choosing of diplomats, the kind of thing that could only work in a town where people understand that the process of choosing diplomats is a little ridiculous. In “Madam,” Valerie Butts wants to buy her way into an ambassadorship, but may have to divorce her doofus husband — while somehow retaining his money — to make that happen.
‘Someone to Watch Over Me’
The social change that can stem from a single person speaking out is the subject of “Someone to Watch Over Me (Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh St. NW). The first production from the Federal Theatre Project, a nonpartisan company dedicated to illuminating the political process, “Someone” follows a woman in 2016 who sparks a populist revolt by posting a message online.
‘Carry a Big Stick’
Paul Handy’s play (Warehouse, 645 New York Ave. NW) introduces a Teddy Roosevelt you may not know. He’s an untried vice president with a lot to prove when he assumes office after the death of William McKinley. And he wants to build a canal between the Pacific and the Atlantic — in Nicaragua. This all-male production examines the different agendas that went into making the canal (which ended up in Panama, of course) in suitable detail for history nerds.
‘The Elephant in My Closet’
David Lee Nelson melds the personal and the political in his solo show (Caos on F, 923 F St. NW) about how he grew up a Southern Republican and how he had to tell his Southern Republican dad that he’d become a D-word. (That’s “Democrat,” not “declaimer against his childhood in a one-man show.”) Along the way he gives a history of the Republican Party, making this educational as well as funny.
Robert Kennedy’s 1968 assassination is overshadowed by that of his older brother. With his one-man show (Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW), actor Russ Widdall aims to show audiences how much was lost when Bobby was shot. “RFK” offers a chance to rediscover (or, for those too young to remember him, just discover) what made Bobby Kennedy seem like the hope of the nation.