As each new year approaches, we look back on the last twelve months. But end of year ranking lists and retrospectives do more than examine the recent past, they provide an opportunity to reflect on our present. This is the essence of 1812 Productions’ December staple, THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS, now in its ninth year. Having missed the previous eight, I can’t say how this iteration compares to years past. A few jokes seem to rely on characters established in previous episodes, but by its nature the show requires only a knowledge of our current times and an appreciation of political humor and well-crafted sketch comedy. And for this, TITWTI delivers.
With references to Throwback Thursday (“it’s always #throwbackthursday when it comes to women’s issues”), Snapchat, and that annoying five-second wait to skip a YouTube video, the show focuses our attention on the funny intricacies that make up this zeitgeist. Most of the jokes focus on the recent past. Some—Ebola, the midterms—feel strangely distant even if they are only few cycles past. As befits a center city Philadelphia theatrical production, the humor retains a unreflecting liberal perspective (but then Republicans do provide such comedy fodder!). Director and creator Jen Childs weaves a seamless production of sketches and music, video and slides. Performer/musical director Tabitha Allen leads a series of entertaining musical numbers (Aimé Donna Kelly sure can sing!). TITWTI Stalwarts Scott Greer and Susan Riley Stevens excel in a series of sharp sketches, including a look at how Mad Men account execs would promote drone strikes. Don Montrey does a news reading worthy of an SNL Weekend Update, which features a joyous improvised audience interaction by Dave Jadico. These are pretty funny times. [Plays and Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Street] November 28-December 31, 2014; 1812productions.org.