by: Rudy Gerson
Three Day Hangover is back with another debacherous adaptation of a stuffy old play. A contemporary spin on Moliere’s Tartuffe, writer Jake Brandman has crafted a relevant political satire that hits the mark in every way and sacrifices little in this intergenerational comedy about the absurdity of public political personalities. Entering the second floor meeting room at West Park Church (86th and Amsterdam), audiences are greeted with a patriotic set, a well-stocked bar, and a middle-finger to every stiff and outdated pretense of the sober theater world.
Drinking is more than encouraged (yet of course not required), as the play is peppered with ample calls to ‘take a swig.’ Seated in thrust around cocktail tables adorned with white table clothes, the event feels less like a play and more like a gathering of people about to venture head first into another dimension.
Heading the wheel is Carol Linnea Johnson, the campaign manager and well-to-do matriarch of an estate whose private fortune and strategic planning will fund and manage the presidential campaign of Tartuffe — the everyman political wise guy who commits himself to telling the ‘truffe’ the whole ’truffe’ and nothing but the ’truffe.’
Played by Tom Schwams, Tartuffe has a public personality and private dramas, which are juxtaposed through brilliant use of verse and prose. When the metaphorical camera is on, he speaks in verse. When speaking behind closed doors, only prose.
The play is perfectly campy, irreverent, and exactly the kind of theater we need. There’s no need to hush your laughter and keep your posture. Actors shove the audience right into the action and are ready and able to improvise through any bold comments or looks you may decide to throw them.
Beth Gardiner directs an impeccable ensemble of actors, who bring poise and youthful eccentricity to a company that requires it. Every actor in this production shines. Notably, Dan Morrison shines as everybody’s favorite cocaine-addicted step-brother.
Have you ever pretended to know more about the Syrian Civil War than you actually know? Or made a mildly racist comment in jest within the privacy of your home? Chances are you have, and Three Day Hangover knows this and created a space where audience members can commiserate over our political incorrectness.
The event is less of a play and more of a collective ritual of celebration, where classifications are flipped, roles reversed, and hierarchies suspended. The love of Three Day Hangover gushes out of the show.
I mean this with no hyperbole: more Three Day Hangover has the power to change the world.
Anthropologist Victor Turner coined the term ‘liminality’ to describe phases of life that break from the day-to-day. These are moments that can create joyful and utopic connections across people who would otherwise never interact, let alone laugh together, in communion.
The team at Three Day Hangover knows the potential transformation of liminality. Regardless whether they understand it through such esoteric academic jargon, Three Day Hangover is a theater company to watch.
If I was the owner of a cabaret bar, I would move quickly and produce Tartuffe next year, just in time for an election year where the talking heads will be telling their versions of the whole truffe.
Tartuffe now closed, played Nov 4 – 21.