Poking fun at the process

Political satire addresses the issues at Triumvirate Theatre

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2006


  Carla Jenness and Joe Rizzo compete in a "Blues-Off" as gubernatorial candidates Sarah Palin and Tony Knowles in Triumvirate Theatre's "Lame Ducks and Dark Horses" political satire show. Photo by Jenny Neyman

Carla Jenness and Joe Rizzo compete in a "Blues-Off" as gubernatorial candidates Sarah Palin and Tony Knowles in Triumvirate Theatre's "Lame Ducks and Dark Horses" political satire show.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Soldotna will become election central this weekend as Triumvirate Theatre tackles the weighty issues of crucial statewide importance this campaign season, such as: Is Tony too tan? And, does Sarah ever wear anything other than a power suit?

In “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses,” a political satire show written by Joe Rizzo and Carla Jenness, no candidate is above — or below — mockery, from the lowly Gold party’s desire for dirigibles to Uncle Ted’s attempts to look tech-savvy going down the tubes. Former President Bill Clinton (“Bubba Boy”) and President George W. Bush (“The Discerner” —or was that “The Decider”?) even make appearances.

“We were looking for something fun to do in the fall and we thought that the upcoming political season was just heating up and there would be lots of rich things to mine for a show that satirizes the local political scene and the statewide political scene,” Rizzo said.

The result is a combination of songs, skits, reader’s theaters, parodies and impersonations performed by Rizzo, Carla Jenness, Chris Jenness, Shannon Tappana and Stephanie Coolman with backup dancers Chelsea Dorman, Lorissa Mobbs-Payment, Kandys Lee, Shawna Sanders and Jessie Bowlin.

Originally the plan was to devote the show solely to the governor’s race, but with Tony Knowles and Sarah Palin’s meager mudslinging, Rizzo and Jenness had to widen their focus.

“It’s been really kind of interesting because it’s a lot easier to write comedy when there’s a lot of conflict between the candidates,” Rizzo said. “But there hasn’t been a lot of conflict between Tony Knowles and Sarah Palin, so we’ve had to be a little more creative.”

Knowles and Palin do figure prominently in the show, trading barbs about age and hairstyles, stumping for votes in a blues-off and revealing rejected campaign slogans:

“Vote Tony Knowles, he still has state government stationary to use up.”

“Vote for Sarah Palin, she’s got an ‘R’ after her name.”

But once Rizzo and Jenness decided to widen their aim, there was no lack of Alaska political fodder to take shots at. “Governor Murkowski really helped us out,” Rizzo said.

As did the BP pipeline corrosion scandal, the perennial movement to legalize marijuana and the state’s knack for naming things after politicians (In the vein of Ted Stevens International Airport, now there’s the “Jerry Ward Baggage Claim” and, in honor of Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey’s legislative campaign, the “Good-Try Bar” from Alaska Berry Products.)

“There’s always the standard jet joke and all of those things, but we didn’t want to go for the easy joke all the time, so we really had to be creative about spreading it out a little bit,” Rizzo said.

At one point in the show the lesser-known parties complain about the Republicans and Democrats hogging all the attention. Under the “equal time law,” they’re entitled to being spoofed, too, they argue.

Not a problem, especially with some of their platforms this campaign season — like seceding from the union and returning to a gold standard.

“We’ve tried really hard to be balanced in this show,” Rizzo said. “We’ve tried not to lean toward one way or the other, and we’ve tried not to give one person more mock time than the other, which could be seen as being pro one side or another.”

If Palin gets a spoof song, so does Knowles. And how could you mock Soldotna bridge construction without poking a fun at Sound Off?

Rizzo and Jenness did steer away from local campaigns, and even their worst slams are made in fun.

“None of this political humor or comedy is too terribly biting, at least not offensive,” Rizzo said. “Nothing these guys who’ve been in politics a long time can’t handle.

“Of course they say the greatest compliment of all is someone wants to imitate you. We do a lot of that in this show. Although I play Tony Knowles, but I’m not as tall as Tony, nor am I as good-looking. But the black toupee wig helps. I just keep grinning.”

“Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Triumvirate Theatre in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Tickets are $10 and are available for advanced sale at the Triumvirate Book Store, open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday in the mall, and at the door. There is limited seating so Rizzo recommends getting tickets early.

Jenny Neyman can be reached at jennifer.neyman@peninsulaclarion.com.

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