Donald Trump easily defeats Hillary Clinton for biggest clown in Second City’s satirical new “Almost Accurate Guide to America,” which has displaced the long-running tourist-bait comedy whodunit “Shear Madness” in the Kennedy Center’s Theater Lab through July.
With his lips puckered and a giant orange wig-wad on his head, the bearded redhead Andrew Knox impersonates Trumpian arrogance with sublime cool. He also shows a knack for the presumptive Republican nominee’s severely limited, superlative-laden vocabulary. When introducing a time machine and gearing up for the 1980s, Knox’s Trump purrs, “I want to go back to when the American family was fantastically tremendous.”
Bernie Sanders tallies some good laughs, too. As played by Tyler Davis — a young, skinny, very funny black guy — the pugnacious Sanders barks, “I want there to be no more money! And for people to pay for things with hugs!”
The skits and improvisations of this two-hour show are largely fast and snappy, even if the outlines are fairly familiar. Hillary Clinton is a chameleon. Lobbyists are rapacious opportunists. The country is largely made up of twangy, right-wing conservatives and NPR totebag-toting progressives. Yet, as written by committee and directed with straightforward high energy by Billy Bungeroth, “Almost Accurate” puts teeth into the caricatures surprisingly often.
The bit on guns is unnervingly good, and it’s blunt in its attack on Capitol Hill’s inaction. The depiction of the politically influential Koch brothers is quite wicked (and too good to be spoiled here). A swift early bit involving a newsboy (Ryan Asher) hawking papers is clever; the cute and classically plucky kid bellows headlines and keeps advancing the story while a potential buyer responds with lines like, “So it’s Saudi Arabia’s fault? So it’s Iran’s fault?”
Not all the targets are occupiers of high office. An interracial married couple has a spat in which the young black husband (Davis) is wounded by an insinuation from his white wife (Asher). “I am not a palatable black,” he huffs.
Not everything flies, most notably an extended bit about first ladies from Dolley Madison to Clinton. The improvisations were lively on Thursday night, though, with a youngish crowd participating vigorously in the lobbyist sketch, and with a nifty game called “What’s Your Privilege?” getting much better than expected results.
The show is tailored to D.C. — one of the best running gags involves “Shear Madness” — and it seems like the cast might be responsive as July inevitably delivers fractious new headlines. Already, there was a fleeting reference to last week’s Capitol sit-in by House Democrats. If Second City maintains a current edge and keeps polishing what it has, this could stand as one of the summer’s better diversions.
Second City’s “Almost Accurate Guide to America” written by Billy Bungeroth, Marla Caceres, Ed Furman, Scott Morehead, Carley Moseley, John Thibodeaux and the cast of Second City. Directed by Billy Bungeroth. Music director, Sean Sykes; set, Colin K. Bills; lights, Elizabeth A. Coco; costumes, Izumi Inaba. About two hours. Through July 31 at the Kennedy Center’s Theater Lab. Tickets: $49-$64. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.