Presented by S.B. Public Theatre. At Community Arts Workshop, Sat., Dec. 17.
Necessity can be a wonderful thing. Until November 8, 2016, Santa Barbara probably didn’t need a public theater — as in a group of experienced artists committed to expressing a radical vision of the public good through explicitly political work — but as quickly as you can say “swing state,” suddenly we did. By November 21, less than a month later, thanks to the urgency of the situation and the determination of a critical mass of our city’s best theater artists, we had one. Finally, on December 17, this group hit the stage, which in this case was a bare platform in front of a giant block-lettered backdrop bearing the single word “GREAT” and located inside one of the structures at the Community Arts Workshop on Garden Street. Five short, savage plays and two unforgettable songs later, it was official. The resistance is on.
Jim Connolly’s song, “Hey, Volcano,” was written before the election, but his desire to come to better terms with his inner anger has only increased since then, and it made a perfect opening number. Joyelle Ball did a marvelous job directing Anna Telfer and Chris Wagstaffe in “Game Four,” Kristin Idaszak’s heartbreaking, true-life account of casual misogyny in baseball-mad Chicago. LaRose Washington held a brutal mirror up to Trumpism as the title character in David Glazebrook’s “The Rise and Fall of Donna Twomp.” In Lindsey Twigg’s family drama “Skin and Bone,” Marie Ponce poured out the anguishing disenchantment of those who feel racially targeted by America’s new right wing.
Michael Bernard wrote and starred in “A Night at the Electoral College” alongside Vicki Finlayson as the Statue of Liberty, Brian Harwell as Chico, and William Blondell as Harpo. Directed by Annie Torsiglieri, this piece used the conventions of Marx brothers farce to send up the monstrous machinations of Trump and his band of “bros.” More bitter than sweet, this sharp satire provoked as much indignation as laughter, which is to say a lot of both. Torsiglieri’s play “The Ribbon” was written before the election, but it has achieved new relevance in its aftermath. It was great to see UCSB’s Risa Brainin performing alongside fellow faculty member Christina McCarthy and Laezer Schlomkowitz in this warning about the slippery slope that leads governments to collaborate with fascism. With “Bruise” by Diana Lynn Small, things got messy. Oranges decorated with faces and topped with Twinkie “hairdos” were tossed, smashed, and way more than bruised in a weirdly cathartic finale. When UCSB BFA Alexander Hudson and pianist Kacey Link summed it all up with “I’m Here” from the musical The Color Purple, the message could not have been more clear. It’s not over, and no one is giving up.