By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
How Obama Got His Groove Back is a romp of fitfully amusing political sketches. And when the jokes misfire, or knock you on the head for the fifth time, it doesn't matter much; this jukebox musical has good will to spare.
Director/co-author Derek Jeremiah Reid plays the title role, about a world-weary U.S. prez who'd much rather be on American Idol doing his best Otis Redding imitation than leading the free world.
"Old-school, I know," he quips to Michelle (Constance Reese), who is obsessed with keeping her man out of the hands of his newly hired dance instructor (Natascha Corrigan) and perfecting her weight-loss videos.
3301 Beverly Blvd.
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1000 Fremont Ave.
South Pasadena, CA 91030
Region: Pasadena and vicinity
A very funny subplot has Mitt Romney (Phillip Wilburn) taking improv classes from Greg Gregory (Brent Pope, doubling as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has similar dreams of performing on American Idol). Regardless of whatever line he's fed by his scene partner (Courtney DeCosky), Romney has one, and only one, wooden response: "Hi, I'm Mitt Romney."
Thrown out of class for incompetence, Romney fires the instructor, who doesn't realize that Romney just purchased the improv studio. (Wilburn also does another gorgeous cameo as Donald Trump.)
When Romney and his wife, Ann (DeCosky), are on Fox News, being interviewed by Sarah Palin (Corrigan again), jokes abound about his favorite position being missionary and the pleasures of coming from behind. When Palin asks Ann about accusations that her husband is too stiff, she says that's no problem at all. Yep, old-school.
It's all silly, facile fun, with obvious jokes stating the obvious: Our political system is a farce.
Even if Reid's Obama concludes that he really does have serious responsibilities, it's hard to believe his too-tidy resolve. Maybe it was the way Reid was sliding from Harvard-educated brainiac to James Brown on the turn of a dime. Still, strange as it may seem, it's a good thing the play's serious ending misfires. It keeps the nuttiness on the surface, right where it needs to be.
It doesn't happen very often that a play's imperfection turns out to be its saving grace, but that's the case here. And Reid is terrific in the title role.
THE CITY | By Martin Crimp | Son of Semele Ensemble, 3301 Beverly Blvd. | Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Mon., Sept. 17, 7 p.m.; no perfs Sept. 7-9; through Sept. 23 | (213) 351-3507 | sonofsemele.org
HOW OBAMA GOT HIS GROOVE BACK | Written by Nicholas Zill and Derek Jeremiah Reid | City in a Swamp Productions at Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena | Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m., through Oct. 7 | (866) 811-4111 | fremontcentretheatre.com