Don't Start the Riot Without Me | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Don't Start the Riot Without Me 

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Don't Start the Riot Without Me, Chicago's Political Impromptu Theater Company, at the Greenview Arts Center. Doing political satire for 8 audience members in a theater built for 200 is difficult enough. But without keen political insight and an eye for the absurd, it's impossible. In his Chicago debut, playwright and director R. Mark Whitehead tries to pen "a political farce much like our government" but spends too much time aiming at obvious targets: Clinton's waffling, Stephanopoulos's inexperience, Perot's penchant for pie charts, Dole's third-personitis. He also devotes half his play to a rather nonsensical subplot in which Daley fils mobilizes a massive police force to capture the returning Massachusetts delegate who "really" started the 1968 convention riot. Curiously, Whitehead imagines our mayor as a rough-and-ready gangland mastermind rather than the intellectually parboiled palooka we know and love.

The play has its inspired moments--Mary Matalin calling the Democratic convention a "first-class cluster fuck," for example. But Whitehead's main political fantasy--that Dole and Gingrich program a key administration official to add arch-conservative planks to the Democratic platform--seems irrelevant next to Clinton's rampant auto-Republicanization. With the real-life Daley imagining that convention protesters will demonstrate by city-administered lottery, Dole insisting that he's "a Kansan, an American, just a man" while surrounded by an impressive Secret Service detail and a sycophantic press corps, and Clinton inheriting the mantle of welfare reformer from Charles Murray, all the best political farce has already been done.

--Justin Hayford

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