THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS–Perfect Holiday Cheer? You Bet!

by Jack Shaw

Don Montrey, Susan Riley Stevens, Tabitha Allen, Scott Greer, Aime Kelly, Reuben Mitchell in 1812 Productions' THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS. (Photo credit: Mark Garvin)

Most of us can agree this has been a really stinky year of national political bickering and power plays amid hollow promises, high unemployment, and a recession. So, none of us are feeling any too enthusiastic as we trudge through our day like Eyeore, who has just lost his tail.

There is hope…that is, if you saw the smart, classy, often hysterical 1812 Productions’ THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS at Plays and Players Theatre in Philadelphia.

“If you want to survive, you’ve got to laugh at the powers that be,” says the play’s director, Jennifer Childs.

Believe it or not, this show may be the perfect holiday cheer, now, more than ever…and it delivers on its promises fully, unlike some “powers that be”–whatever political party, etc. But this IS satire. Serious laughter. Comedy with a purpose.

A Philadelphia satirical staple for six short years, and each year’s variation, more challenged by real political events, 1812 Productions’ THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS remains fresh, and cleverly funny as it evolves with each succeeding year. It’s no wonder we are consistently rewarded with laughter, a lifting of spirits and a warm feeling inside.

THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS begins as it always has, but this time, there’s a twist. The world situation is just too depressing and no one wants to perform except for one member who wants to find some way to present the current situation in a “happy ending” sort of way. Like we all do.

We discover nothing is funnier than commentary on world events, highlighting people and their flaws, played out to the familiar tune styles of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the rhythmic and rhyming style of Dr. Seuss, the light operatic styles of Gilbert and Sullivan and even the colorful images of DC Comics.

THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS, the news program, anchored by the effervescent comedienne Susan Riley Stevens and the masterful comic Don Montrey, brings it all to us–including an utterly ridiculous (and hilarious) celebrity reporter (Aimé Kelly) and a geeky PhD weatherman (Reuben Mitchell) who has nothing to say of relevance about the weather itself but its deeper meaning. Mitchell’s expressions alone are priceless.

Tabitha Allen, obviously a very talented music director, fits right in her comedic mold with an innocent, youthful appeal.

I could easily say more about every actor in the show, from the veterans to the newbies, but it would be to say how great they all are at what they do, and how I enjoyed their performances. The show is brilliantly conceived and directed. This is, after all, Philadelphia’s All Comedy Theatre Company–the only all comedy theatre company in the country–or so they say. See THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS for yourself, seeing what makes great satirical comedy work–that is if you don’t mind smiling, chuckling and laughing along the way.

Childs’ ensemble of truly amazingly, talented actors, singers and comedians focus on what’s important: laughter, and what’s not: despair over what we cannot change overnight.

While not taking itself too seriously, the show takes how we feel seriously, and playfully shows us another way to see our leaders’ character flaws, or the idiotic wrongs and chronically stupid situations people put themselves to be in power. Optimistic Cynicism. I don’t know what else to call it.

The show engages us with “optimistic cynicism” and takes on the issues weighing us down and lifts them from us. Some jokes only appear to fall flat; those same groaners resound with the audience, too. They are meant to. Audience interaction, obviously different every night, is played to perfection by Dave Jadico and Scott Greer. Comic timing, masterful staging and good humor abound. Each member of the ensemble is delightful.

Jennifer Childs opens with her classic character, “Patsy,” a real hoot, with a show from her stoop, telling us how she feels about the Republicans, positioning themselves to run against President Obama. Ultimately no side is left unscathed. Strangely enough, we all feel good about it in the end. We are “optimistically cynical” that it will all work out as it always has over the years.

Running through the end of December, THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS at Plays and Players Theatre in Philadelphia is the show to see. Childs is looking at the political theatre all around us and says, “we will be occupying Center City Philadelphia for the entire month…to help our fellow Philadelphians make some sense of the chaos.”

I think you can come from New Jersey or Delaware and they won’t mind.  It’s certainly worth the drive.

Written & Performed by the ensemble
Directed by Jennifer Childs
November 25 — December 31, 2011
1812 Productions
Plays & Players Theatre
1714 Delancey St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 592-9560

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