Illogical America

Plays balance comically absurd with politically moderate

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Photo courtesy Bryant-Lake Bowl

Box Wine Theater presents Raucous Caucus II Political Theater Festival

Griffin Fillipitch

What: Raucous Caucus II

When: 7 p.m., Jan. 19 and 10 p.m., Jan. 20

Where: Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis

Cost: $12

When did âÄúpoliticsâÄù start feeling like a bad word? It has never been laced with so many negative connotations. People who want to be politicians now commonly use the fact that they have never been a politician as a qualification. When I think about politics, I just think about people yelling at each other on television.

With this in mind, Box Wine Theatre’s âÄúRaucous Caucus IIâÄù âÄî a series of ten-minute, politically themed plays âÄî is a considerably brave concept. But the production at Uptown’s Bryant-Lake Bowl has several important things working in its favor.

The political landscape has changed since its debut last year, and the show, to a certain extent, has too.

âÄúLast year, there were some that directly reflected the previous election and how Republicans took a bunch of House seats all over the country. That was a big issue,âÄù said Adam Sharp, co-artistic director of Box Wine Theatre and writer of two of the plays in âÄúRaucous Caucus.âÄù âÄúThings like Occupy Wall Street were mentioned this year, but the messages about things like homosexuality and affirmative action are also very universal and less specific to any one year.âÄù

While the topics differ, a common thread throughout the show is an absurdist flair that the plays give to each issue they take on. Throughout the show, superheroes save corporations from their consciences, firefighters quibble over paperwork outside a burning building, and a third-grader is sent cross-country by his crazed parents to shut down a national hotel chain.

This approach brings much needed levity to many of these ideas.

âÄúI really enjoy doing scenes where something is taken to its logical extreme,âÄù said Kyler Chase, who plays one of those crazed parents. âÄúWhen it gets to that point the audience can relate to the messages, and whether you agree or disagree with it, you can just sit back and laugh at it. That’s when audiences find common ground, when you have shared that experience with people who don’t believe the same things but can laugh at the same things.âÄù

The result of this approach lands many of the plays somewhere between âÄúThe Twilight ZoneâÄù and an Abbott and Costello routine.

While the narratives are couched in absurdity, however, the plays are also thematically and politically moderate. Each protagonist throughout is being pushed and pulled by the extremes of the political spectrum and does not know exactly how to react.

âÄúWatching these, you realize that rather than red or blue, there are all of these shades of grey,âÄù said Chase. âÄúThat’s how real people are.âÄù

The plays themselves are even torn in this way. One entitled âÄúCaptain Corporate PersonhoodâÄù mocks the heartlessness of American corporations, while also mocking the aimlessness of the Occupy Wall Street movement that opposes them.

âÄúI am involved with some of the Occupy stuff downtown, but at the same time I am very critical of the things they are doing,âÄù said Sharp, the writer of the play. âÄúIt’s a sentiment that I think a lot of Americans have.âÄù

Comically, the plays are not always successful. But they do capture something real about the confused American political psyche in a big, over-the-top fashion.