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The Great Election 

Thursday, Oct 2 2008
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The idea of staging Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock’s early 1900s comedy about a corrupt election in a small town seems like it should be a natural right now, what with all the chaos and turmoil of our own current national campaign. Unfortunately, though, director John Stark’s slapdash production of Leacock’s irritatingly dated play suffers from such a weak comic sensibility that it comes across as clumsy rather than timely. In Pahrump, Nevada, the townsfolk launch a recall election against sleazy state Senator Bagshaw (Martin Clark), a buggy-eyed old coot and multiterm-serving Democrat. The Pahrump Republicans desperately desire to steal the seat and put up local casino- and tavern-owner Josh Smith (John Combs), a cigar-chewing, whiskered reprobate who hypocritically runs on the Temperance and Prohibition platform. To promote his campaign, Smith temporarily turns his bar into a health-food restaurant — and he even wins an endorsement from the town’s pruny preacher (Lynn Wanlass). Much corrupt behavior ensues. Leacock’s attempts to evoke folksy satire come across as patronizing and steeped in tired “hick” stereotypes. The play’s hillbilly-lite atmosphere is so cheesy, Hee Haw looks like The West Wing by comparison. The plot’s a muddle that’s impossible to follow while director Stark’s unfocused direction has the performers shuffling through or mumbling over the work’s corny jokes so that they’re barely discernible. This may actually be an act of charity.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Sept. 18. Continues through Oct. 12, 2008

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