Dirty tricks start early in politics — very early in “The Inaugural Election for President of Mrs. Jacobson’s Sixth Grade Class,” a windily titled Fringe show that is as innocent as it sounds.
Yes, there are betrayals and backstabbing. But things can get only so venal in a plot that starts with the death of a classroom hamster, a tragedy that inspires an election. The goal: to teach the students something about individual responsibility and the democratic process.
The show is tailored for school audiences, and the young kids attending Tuesday (in Lab II of the Atlas Performing Arts Center) were passionate about voting when they got the chance near the end of the 85-minute show. Writer-director Kevin Finkelstein’s script has the directness of those old, instructive after-school specials, but the tone is light and amiable as seven adult actors engagingly play the sixth-graders and grownups navigating the inevitable hijinks and crises of a campaign.
All six kids run for president, but quickly there are scandals — an inappropriate picture on a cellphone, a funny revenge setup that knocks out the popular boy, etc. “And then there were four,” intones Jenny, an energetic girl who wears her ambition on her sleeve.
The play name-checks everyone from Thoreau and Gandhi to Don Imus and Trayvon Martin. One class discussion briefly sounds like an advanced symposium, which will amuse the adults, and Finkelstein hits good (if obvious) satirical marks as the pre-adolescent candidates make speeches that are recognizably overscripted and wooden.
The show is presented by the resonantly named Federal Theatre Project. It’s ripe for the middle school crowd.
Written and directed by Kevin Finkelstein. July 19 at 8:30 p.m., July 20 at 4:45 p.m. and July 26 at 1:45 p.m., Lab II, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NW. Visit capitalfringe.org.