If fast-paced apps, tweets, and glowing screens have your eyes abnormally a-glaze (yes, millennials, you can admit this, too) trade Facebook for good-feeling farce and be sure to pop over to Hexagon’s 2015 show at the Woodrow Wilson High School Auditorium before the end of the run this upcoming weekend. Between the peppy, live orchestra, Busby Berkeley-esque dance formations and intelligent, harmless humor that leans toward the gentler side of the skewering scale, it’s a much appreciated, refreshing throwback.
Cooked up in 1955 by a cohort of witty young Washingtonians, including an alum of the renowned Princeton Triangle Club, Hexagon is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization whose annual political, satirical comedy revue dedicated to “pure fun and nonsense” has raised more than four million dollars for more than forty D.C. charities over the years. Its founders coined the group’s name by adding another “triangle” to represent the inclusion of women, and that spirit of inclusion continues today. The troupe proclaims on its website: “You name it, there’s a place for anyone who wants to play a part!”
This 60th anniversary show promises not part, but triple the spoof – the spoof, the whole spoof, and nothing but the spoof, to be precise – and provides a welcome respite from electronic entertainment, as live theater tends to remind us. Beyond that, it’s just particularly plain innocent fun—an intimate community romp nestled in our big, cosmopolitan city.
Before the house opened, guests actually conversed in the lobby instead of flicking through their phones in silence…imagine! And before the lights dimmed, audience members were instructed to quiet that “ubiquitous invader of all privacy.” Look up – it’s theater time, people of the public!
Hexagon follows through on its original oath with the strength of its new, original material: twenty-seven skits, plus one overture and an entre’act. Every lyric, costume choice, eight-count of choreography or crack against Congress can be credited to a member of the talented cast of volunteer actors, staff, and crew.
Sunday’s performance also featured special one-time cameos from D.C. notables Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and DC Council members Anita Bonds, Mary Cheh, David Grosso, Vincent Orange, and Georgetown Business Association President Charles Camp, appearances that display Hexagon’s reach in the Washington community. In their most amusing interlude, Director Malcolm Edwards guested as a tourist seeking Georgetown recommendations from the ultimate authorities: Rep. Norton and Mr. Camp himself. After the celebs’ articulate account of can’t-miss places of historic importance (e.g. Dumbarton Oaks, where discussions on U.N. structure took place) Edwards, disinterested, asked where to find The Exorcist steps. Pea soup returns—again.
The power of Daniel Riker’s performance as an inebriated Pierre L’Enfant surely compelled in Act I. When a letter from President Washington arrives commissioning Pierre to design the layout for the capital, a goofy canoodling between him and Madame L’Enfant (Deirdre Gyr Turshen) devolves into a planning session gone awry. When Mme. chides Pierre that he can’t draw streets (Pennsylvania Ave.) any which way, he connects streets to circles—and more circles—in a series of hilariously random decisions. Pierre excitedly brainstorms several colors for Washington’s house before Mme. reminds him they’ve only got white paint in the backyard. The duo recalls an oblivious, less malicious, Monsieur and Madame Thénardier and maintains flawlessly terrible French accents.
Elsewhere in Act I, the song “To Be a Liberal,” brings clever lyrics that may hit home to the plate, including references to exceeding budgets, chai lattés in Priuses, yoga, and San Francisco as a separate nation state. Other thematic material of note ranges from speed cameras as a way for the D.C. government to make “big moolah,” to a nativity scene featuring Chelsea Clinton’s newborn babe and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid as the three wise men. The chorus in a well-navigated “Tea Party Tango” choreographed by Carol Jean Newell always moves to “the right.” Dancers sparkle in a Rockettes-style kick line. In Act II, WMATA, Dan Snyder and TV binge-watching come under fire and Heather Godwin delivers a nicely sung ode to household faucets that are already on fire—because of fracking. Too soon? In the interludes, look forward to seeing, not just hearing, real voices of Washington, D.C. radio parody their segments. Jim Bohannon of AM 1500 and Bob Madigan, formerly of WTOP, charmed audiences at Sunday’s matinée.
At Hexagon, all D.C.’s a stage, but the men and women are not merely players. The proceeds from their efforts reverberate into the D.C. community. The 2015 show benefits the Employment Justice Center (EJC) on K Street, which strategizes to protect low-income worker rights.
I knew I’d tapped into a benevolent, local treasure before “The Spoof” even got spoofing. When a woman arriving next to me had a question about seat assignment (FYI, the number on the right elbow rest is yours), an usher in a jaunty cap and crisp white shirt assured us, with genuine cheer, that “it’s an equal opportunity audience.” Don’t miss your opportunity to play your part as a spectator.
Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
Hexagon 2015: The Spoof, the Whole Spoof, and Nothing but the Spoof! plays Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28 at 8 p.m. at the Woodrow Wilson High School Auditorium – 3950 Chesapeake Street NW, Washington, DC (One block from the Red Line metro station at Tenleytown-AU). To order tickets, call (202) 333-SHOW (7469) or purchase them online.
‘The Spoof, the Whole Spoof, and Nothing but the Spoof!” by Jennifer Strand.