D.C.’s decades-old satire-for-charity troupe Hexagon nips into the Fringe Festival, and Sonia Rao likes the potential of a wacky teen comedy.
“Hexagon 2017: Let Freedom Zing!”
The musical political troupe Hexagon has about 25 years on the Capitol Steps and can boast such past satirists as Tom Lehrer. In its 62 years, Hexagon has lured political names ranging from Attorney General Janet Reno to ABC’s Sam Donaldson to its stage. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended a spring performance to see the salute “Kickin’ Up a Storm (for RBG).”
That number is reprised in the troupe’s Capital Fringe debut, “Let Freedom Zing!,” at the Atlas Performing Arts Center — an hour-long version of an annual revue usually held in high school auditoriums.
Hexagon likes to distinguish itself from other topical musical companies by presenting all-original music instead of song parodies and devoting all its proceeds to charity — nearly $4 million over the years. Its reliance on volunteers also means a neighborly approach to song and dance. The jabs are not so sharp (though the singing sometime is), and there’s a kindly approach to its choral comedy.
Its biggest current problem is the prevailing political landscape it is forced to tackle, one so extreme it almost defies parody. Running down what happened in the 2016 primaries elicits more sighs than laughs, and some of these things are already outmoded in a fast-moving news cycle.
“Fox News Foxes” for example, still counts Megyn Kelly among its flock. Other topics, such as Flint’s disheartening water problem, may not be ready for their own “Brown Water Blues,” subbing “Lead in the Water” for “Wade in the Water.”
Chad Ramsey’s Trump impersonation owes a lot to Alec Baldwin and the guy on “The President Show,” but it’s still funny (though one sketch, oddly, appears only on video). The best response was for Richard Present’s simple song about electronic entanglements, “Love My Phone,” and especially Brandon Walker’s self-deprecating “The Bubble,” about the NPR-loving, Whole Foods-shopping bunch who know little about the rest of the city.
Though Hexagon boasts a huge cast of nearly 30, only a handful were nimble enough to don heels for the traditional concluding kickline. The troupe may want to lure younger volunteers to ensure future audiences.
— Roger Catlin
60 minutes. July 16, 20 and 23. Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St NE.
“J-Swizzle’s (and D-Man’s) Epic Awesome Swaggy Broventure for Sweet Rhymes”
Jared and Daniel are just two teens who do regular teen things like call each other “bro” and stick their fists in each other’s mouths. As aspiring rappers, they believe in the power of “sweet rhymes” and are therefore delighted when Jewish Jesus (yes, we know) rolls in on a folding bicycle with the ultimate rap album in hand. He declares that the pair must undergo trials to earn the album, and the plot offers up a bar mitzvah-centric test of friendship.
Emma Choi’s “J-Swizzle’s (and D-Man’s) Epic Awesome Swaggy Broventure for Sweet Rhymes” is a lighthearted jaunt into the world of suburban nerds. Choi, a high schooler herself, drew from personal observations in creating the characters, employing quirky comedy in the style of the television series “Freaks and Geeks.” Daniel uses an eczema flare-up to excuse himself from an uncomfortable situation with former bully — and girl — Sally Bridgefield, and Jared once got in trouble for spiking matzoh dough with yeast. They’re #relatable.
The performances of Scott Duvall (Jared) and Alex Lew (Daniel) lean toward exaggeration, but the production, at the Atlas Performing Arts Center’s Lab II, bodes well for its playwright. “J-Swizzle” is well-paced and delightfully witty. (A recurring joke, eliciting hearty laughter each time, involves Jewish Jesus gaining strength each time he is wished a Merry Christmas.) When Jared and Daniel yell, “We’re going to be famous one day,” it’s hard not to imagine Choi voicing her own hope — one that may come true.
— Sonia Rao
65 minutes. July 15, 19, 20 and 23 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center Lab II, 1333 H St. NE.
IF YOU GO: Fringe tickets $17, plus one-time purchase of a $7 Fringe button. Available online at www.capitalfringe.org, 866-811-4111 and at Fringe venues.
MORE FROM THE FRINGE FESTIVAL: