Inside D.C. entertainment

Political pageantry: Congressional reps act in Shakespeare Theatre fundraiser

May 3, 2011 - 09:20 AM
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Euan Morton as Puck, Representative Mike McIntyre as Hamlet and Tim Daly as Richard III in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 2011 Will on the Hill, The World’s A Stage. Photo by Kevin Allen.

Washington's favorite second grade pageant, Will on the Hill, once again brought congressional representatives and business leaders together on the stage of the Harman Center for some poorly-recited Shakespeare and funny hats. Yes, just as children in their first play don comically oversized hats that make them look even smaller, so too do our nation's lawmakers, all in the name of raising money for the Shakespeare Theatre's education programs. "They should have been at the [royal] wedding," said Jane Harman, wife of Sidney, and benefactor of the theater. "The headgear is amazing."

But before our lawmakers went on, some actual schoolchildren, the drama class of Westfield High School, performed a scene from All's Well That Ends Well, set in a Wild West saloon. Some boys with Justin Bieber hair pretended to take shots a little too convincingly. Prom is coming up, guys! But the difference between this actual student production and the facsimile that followed is that these kids can really act. Not so for the two dozen leaders who signed up for this embarrassment, which include Rep. Jaris Polis, Sen. Roger Wicker, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Rep. Donna Edwards, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and journalists Howard Fineman and Major Garrett. Refereeing this puppet show were Real Actors Tim Daly (of ABC's Private practice) and Broadway star Euan Morton (of Taboo).

The budget cuts were the focus of this year's Shakespearean spoof, "The World's a Stage," written by Peter Byrne, who wisely cut the iambic pentameter after only a few lines. It gave the staff a chance to trot out some old chestnuts about how Medicare reform is toxic, no one watches C-SPAN, and how cutbacks meant their staff no longer includes a masseuse. "I knew I smelled second grade Shakespeare," said Daly. He and Morton were tasked with the roles of villains Richard III and Puck, respectively, who came in to make mischief of the budget negotiations. "I just got back from Wisconsin, so my calendar's clear," said Morton as Puck.

As they wrecked hearings for the auto industry and infrastructure (pronounced dramatically by Holmes Norton as In-fra-struct-TRA), reading woodenly from binders, the real students shifted uneasily in their seats, and yawned. Even Byrne knew he hadn't chosen the sexiest of topics to lampoon, as his characters complained of their own boredom throughout. "Can I borrow your phone to play Angry Birds?" asked Rep. Shelly Berkley, as an auto industry executive.

But there were a few good zingers. After Puck shuts down Richard III's plans by getting the women of Shakespeare to libel him on Twitter (I know, just go with it), Rep. Mike McIntyre said, "Try getting anyone to take you seriously when the whole country is making fun of you!" "Like Donald Trump?" replied Daly. But the greatest applause went to Daly, introducing his character. "I am the embodiment of human evil," he said. "Especially now that the competition is gone."


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