Are Political Sex Scandals Funny? Tail!Spin! Fringe Review
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner may wish to reconsider his reported plans to stage a political comeback, thanks to “Tail!Spin!” which eviscerates him and three other politicians at the center of recent sex scandals.
Using verbatim transcripts recited by a mostly stellar cast of five actors and comedians, playwright Mario Correa has fashioned an hour-long entertainment as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, going one by one through the four notorious incidents:
There is Weiner, (portrayed by Nate Smith) who resigned after sending sexually suggestive Tweets and half-naked pictures of himself to female Twitter followers.
Idaho Senator Larry Craig (played by Sean Dugan) served out his term but did not run again after it was discovered he had plead guilty to soliciting another man for sex in an airport bathroom.
Florida Representative Mark Foley (Dan Hodapp) resigned after the press revealed his sexually explicit Instant Messages with teenagers who had served as Congressional Pages.
North Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (Mo Rocca) disappeared from public view for several days in 2009, then held a press conference where he admitted he had flown to Argentina where he had pursued an extra-marital affair with an Argentine woman named María Belén Chapur. (All the women are played by Rachel Dratch.) Efforts to impeach him failed, though he was censured. He served out his term and now reportedly works as a paid political contributor to Fox News.
“Tail!Spin!” recapitulates the scandals, using the public comments, statements, instant messages, e-mails, and text message of the politicians and others caught up in these events. The playwright shapes these words very cleverly. Sometimes all the characters present their words as a kind of collective prose poem, although it is always crystal clear who is speaking and what is going on. (There are labels projected on the rear screen that identify each speaker.) More often, one individual’s various statements are juxtaposed to expose his hypocrisies or his self-delusion. Sometimes the juxtapositions are outright bawdy: We hear Larry Craig recite a favorite recipe of his involving Idaho potatoes while an unnamed sex partner describes an encounter, and we see the two together in a way that makes clear the double-entendre of the word potato.
All five performers participate in all four of the stories in what winds up being a huge cast of characters, from wives and press spokesmen and arresting officers to Wolf Blitzer and Barbara Walters (who gets the funny last line of the show, taken from her memoir.) The clear stand-outs are Dratch (an alumna of Saturday Night Live) and Nate Smith; the least accomplished actor is Mo Rocca.
It is all very funny, and shocking (you are likely to find yourself saying; “Did he really say THAT?”), and sold out before its first performance. Will “Tail!Spin!” have a further life? It seems destined to.
None of the four men currently hold public office, and, when the show is over and we’ve had our laughs, would it be out of place for us to wonder whether there is any larger point to this exercise in mockery? Perhaps entertainment is its own justification.
Tail!Spin! remaining performances (all sold out):
Sunday, August 12 @ 7pm
Monday, August 13 @ 8pm
Wednesday, August 15 @ 7pm
Thursday, August 16 @ 10:30pm
2012 New York International Fringe Festival at the Kraine Theatre (85 East 4th Street)
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