One of the central theatrical events of the DC region is the annual Page-to-Stage Festival held on the Labor Day Weekend at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The Festival's committee invites theater groups from the District, Maryland, and Virginia to give a preview of the new dramatic season through readings, rehearsals, and panels tied to their current works-in-progress. Numerous Baltimore groups presented programs at this year's Festival. One of the more intriguing entries came from the Playwrights Group of Baltimore, who presented an anthology of short plays, USA 2017, which focused on everyone's favorite topic of conversation these days: the presidential election in November.
A mixture of comic and tragic pieces explored the election's outcome from different perspectives. As one might expect, Donald Trump was the arch-villain of the evening.
Rich Espey's sober dialogue What a Year probed the ways in which "white privilege" is more than a slogan and how even mildly racially tinged language can hurt and distort reality. More bombastic, Paddy Carroll's satirical My Fabulous Trumpettes imagines how the famous Trumpian wall backfires as the Donald takes over the White House with the comic assist of Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, and Vladimir Putin. The wall returns in Amy Bernstein's elegiac The Wall, in which a Mexican-American mother and daughter find themselves separated from and invisible to each other because of the new wall on the Mexican border. Political corruption is the object of criticism in Joe Osborne's No Contest, set in a decrepit Philadelphia precinct. The most poetic piece of the evening, Cheryl Williams's Ford's Place gently depicts three older women dealing with the grief-tinged comic soap opera of their small neighborhood.
Allegory takes over in Susan Middaugh's Heavy Weights, where Hillary and Donald become boxers in the ring. Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty make guest appearances to deliver patriotic speeches on the real meaning of America. In Kevin Kostic's The Political Roundup dueling Democratic and Republican television commentators, using the foulest rhetoric to destroy the positions of the other side, suddenly discover they are long-lost siblings and the children of the unsuspecting host. A political farce, John Conley's Adele and Lancelot Bake a Cake features two White House chefs, adamantly opposed to Hillary and Donald, who bake an unusual dessert for the unexpected new President and Vice President. An elegiac note returns with Dwight Cook's C in C's Last Walk, depicting Obama's bittersweet day of departure from the White House.
Shirley Basfield Dunlap, Menchu Esteban, Alex Hewett, Richard Keller, Alina Collins Maldonado, and Erica Poe joined the playwrights as the cast for USA 2017. The result was a clear, passionate, creative---but far from nuanced---take on our bizarre electoral season.