REVIEW (We Love Ann Arbor): Theatre Nova’s ‘The Totalitarians’ lampoons American politics

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 2.42.42 PM.pngHarvey Milk famously said, “Politics is theater,” and he wasn’t wrong. When everything you say and do on the campaign trail, and while in office, is closely scrutinized by the public you serve, your behavior is inevitably shaped by that awareness.

Not surprisingly, this natural kinship between two performative constructs has resulted in a number of plays about politicians and the people who work with them, and Theatre Nova’s production of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s black comedy “The Totalitarians” (which had its world premiere in 2014) is among the most recent crop.

“The Totalitarians” focuses on a young and hungry political operative wannabe named Francine (Sayre Fox), who hitches her wagon to rising star Penelope Easter (Diane Hill), a Nebraska state government candidate more famous for her great hair than for clear policy positions or eloquence.

Francine’s physician husband Jeffrey (Joe Zarrow) – who feels neglected, wants a baby, and questions Francine’s advocacy for a seemingly unqualified, shallow candidate – also struggles at work, where he meets (and treats) a young, manic conspiracy theory nut named Ben (Connor Forrester). Instead of working up the courage to deliver Ben’s dire prognosis, Jeffrey falls under the sway of Ben’s bizarre notions about a secret plan to make Nebraska a totalitarian state.

“The Totalitarians” clearly doesn’t aim to paint a realistic portrait. (Francine, despite being “on the rise,” is a pretty terrible speech writer, and Jeffrey, who can’t screw up the courage to give his patients bad news, could not possibly retain a license to practice medicine). Rather, it’s an over-the-top bit of silliness, lampooning our political system. Understood. And perhaps the seriousness of our current, divisive political climate makes it harder to sit back and laugh.

Because I must confess, I didn’t find myself laughing much at all. READ THE REST HERE


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