Directed by Dan Knechtges
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Mario Correa’s “Tail! Spin!” was the breakout hit of the 2012 NY International Fringe Festival (Fastest-Selling Show in FringeNYC history) and the charmingly irreverent show has found its way into the Culture Project’s 2014 Season at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre. What TMZ is to celebrity gossip “Tail! Spin!” is to political gossip and it showcases a delightful romp through the actual emails, text messages, and tweets of four political heavy-hitters. The buzz here is about how these four men get “tail” (an abhorrent metaphor) in real time or cyber time and about how they and their staffs attempt to “spin” the way out of their tight and embarrassing scandalous spaces.
It is remarkable enough that politicians would engage in shameless extramarital sexual liaisons; it is even more remarkable that they would deny, cover up, re-frame or otherwise refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. Less remarkable – it would seem – is how easily the constituents of these four hooligans are willing to forgive, forget, and (often) re-elect them to office. Not only did they break marriage and partnership vows, they also engaged in behavior they publicly decried. Some denied their true sexual status; others were so addicted to their prurient behavior, they lost touch with the reality of their actions and the consequences of those actions. Those who were gay had the audacity to oppose equal rights for the LGBT communities they represented.
Sean Dugan captures the duplicitous spirit of Senator Larry Craig who allegedly solicited sex in the men’s public bathroom at the Boise, Idaho airport. Nate Smith’s rapscallion Representative Anthony Weiner outshines Anthony Weiner himself giving the recalcitrant Rep an infectious persona that almost transcends his cheeky and outlandish sexting tribulations. Arnie Burton’s Representative Mark Foley fumbles his way through allegations of inappropriate messaging with an underage White House page with appropriate aplomb arm in arm with his beard Petra Levin. And Tom Galantich infuses Governor Mark Sanford’s affair in Argentina with believable brashness.
Rachel Dratch manages to morph into what seems like a countless string of supporting characters with remarkable believability and authenticity. Ms. Dratch does this not by mimicking those characters but by clearly delineating their unique personality traits with remarkable craft.
Caite Hevner Kamp’s simple set serves as an appropriate backdrop for the more complex matrix of memories played out on the stage. Ryan O’Gara’s stark lighting counterpoints the equally stark revelations playing out on stage. And John Emmett O’Brien’s sound design clearly delineates instant message “dings” from Twitter “tweets.”
Under Dan Knechtges’s precise and inventive direction, the ensemble cast of “Tail! Spin!” portrays a difficult problem in a way easily accessible to audiences that are politically savvy and audiences that might not be familiar with the show’s content. Humanity laughs at what it is intrinsically uncomfortable with. That humor is often transformative and even healing. That certainly is the case with the humor in “Tail! Spin!” as four resilient political offenders “pray for redemption, a happy ending, and a second chance.”