Relevant laughs as the Fringe Festival continues: Roger Catlin takes in Indian-born Krish Mohan's standup act, "An Indian Comedian," and Amanda Erickson is intrigued by a Sorkin-esque fantasia of Trump.


Krish Mohan brings his standup act, "An Indian Comedian: How Not to Fit In," to the 2016 Capital Fringe Festival. (Courtesy of Krish Mohan)

“An Indian Comedian: How Not to Fit In”

Krish Mohan’s “An Indian Comedian: How Not to Fit In” is less a one-man show than a straight stand-up comedy set: He could be spilling these personal tales of growing up as an Indian American in a barroom anywhere, and in fact has.

On the small stage in the Argonaut pub, Mohan talks about how certain bits bombed in other towns or other nights, as if to let us in on trade secrets (and to show that we as an audience are cooler than that one).

Mohan talks about the problems of dating, as any comedian might, but uses his heritage to wander into less-tested ground, riffing about the imagined committee that came up with the Kama Sutra, or talking about reincarnation as a Hindi’s ultimate recycling program.

Race and racism are certainly at the forefront of his discussion, mostly through insensitive questions lobbed his way as he was growing up in the States.

But as unlikely as it seems, Mohan’s may be one of the few Fringe shows willing to directly address the spate of racial strife that’s come out of the violence in recent days. His way in is particularly ingenious -- through the eyes of a good cop who has to suffer because of the actions of one bad cop.

The good cop isn’t sure why he has to dress up in protective armor and riot gear just to patrol a protest where “all they have is signs and glitter.” (He’s told just to do so.)

Mohan’s material is frequently clever if not uproariously funny, which annoys him. He keeps pointing out lines he was particularly proud of that were greeted with smiles instead of big laughs.

Mostly, Mohan has the kind of confidence in his material to keep rolling even if he doesn’t get the response he desires. Which is also a good way to fit in.

-Roger Catlin

60 minutes. July 16, 17, 23 and 24 at the Argonaut, 1433 H St. NE.


John Krizel's "Let Trump Be Trump" at the 2016 Capital Fringe Festival evokes the "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet" episode from "The West Wing." (Courtesy of John Krizel)

"Let Trump Be Trump"

It's an Aaron Sorkin nightmare -- "The West Wing," but Donald Trump is president.

"Let Trump Be Trump" follows four idealistic young staffers as they try to push an immigration bill through Congress. There's curmudgeonly chief of staff Gordon (played with knowing resignation by Andy De); his frantic, driven deputy, Lindsay (a charismatic Alison Donnelly); communications director James (Brendan Hunt); and A.J. (Kendall Helblig), a press secretary with a moral compass that can’t quite find north.

The team is desperate to pass their boss’s hardline measure, which would ban Muslims, expel Mexicans and build a wall. But they’re five votes down in the House. So they scheme, cajole, manipulate. They walk-and-talk and talk too fast, meditating on the nature of democracy and how the sausage gets made.

There’s a flirtation between A.J. and a hard-working reporter (Noah Cooper-Hauser). There’s even a reference to goldfish.

It’s a gleeful send-up of “The West Wing.”

But the show manages to be much more than that -- a parody of our political moment that kept me laughing all the way though. Our administration isn’t sexist, James posits -- “We’ve got two hot women” in the inner circle. At another point, he observes dryly that the Trump administration has already managed to shrink the government. Never mind that that’s because 1,000 people resigned on inauguration day.

Though I despised the characters and their motives, I couldn’t help but root for them. That’s thanks to playwright John Krizel’s clever script, which played on my loyalty to "The West Wing." At one point, Lindsay delivers a soaring speech that makes explicit reference to one of the show's best moments, an instant where the staff recommit to their principles and promise to fight the good fight.

One person’s inspirational speech is another person’s nightmare. That's helpful to remember especially now when it's hard for many voters to imagine supporting one or the other of the candidates. It made me wonder -- did I cheer for Josh and Leo then because they were doing the right thing? Or was I just seduced by a good speech?

-Amanda Erickson

80 minutes. July 14, 16, 19 and 23 at Gallaudet University, Eastman Studio Theater,
800 Florida Ave. NE.

IF YOU GO:

Fringe tickets are $17, plus a one-time purchase of a $7 Fringe button. Available online at www.capitalfringe.org, 866-811-4111 and Fringe venues.