If political satire was simply a matter of laudable good intentions, Occupation, Ken Ferrigni’s 2013 dystopian stage fantasy, might have been a slam-dunk. But it turns out that sending up globalization, the 2008 financial meltdown, religious extremism and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in a single play takes a more exacting — and far lighter — touch than that evidenced under Ferrigni’s heavy hand.
The time is 2016 and the cash-strapped United States has sold off Florida to China for a cool $5 trillion. But as the transfer to Chinese sovereignty approaches, a militia of evangelical swamp trash wages a guerrilla war of resistance in the Everglades against the Chinese occupation.
As the resistance’s fanatical military and spiritual leaders, K.J. Middlebrooks and Brandon Bales do their best to ground the play’s overly broad, actor-resistant caricatures and wildly implausible situations in something recognizably human. Robert Paterno fares somewhat better in an appealing comic turn as a corrupt Chinese governor.
But as with farce, the enemy of any black comedy is pathos, and director Ben Rock lays it on with a trowel in a weirdly melodramatic and grisly Act 2 that only succeeds in smothering the laughs along with whatever serious points Occupation is trying to make.
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Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, East Hollywood.; through May 9. (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org.
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