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'The Totalitarians' Serves Up Political Satire In Time For Campaign Season

Charr Crail

“The Totalitarians” is an outrageous comedy and a cautionary tale of a dark horse candidate who becomes a political frontrunner.

Charr Crail

You’re probably thinking "The Totalitarians" might be a jab at Donald Trump. But Capital Stage picked this script 18 months ago, before Donald Trump launched his present presidential bid. The dark horse candidate in this play does owe something to Sarah Palin. But really, Penelope Easter is in a league of her own when it comes to her speaking style on the stump, announcing “I am not my opponent! And that’s who I am!”

Penelope’s political breakthrough comes when she teams up with a gifted, cynical campaign manager, who invents a sensational slogan, which Penny shouts from the podium like a tolling bell  -- “Freedom From Fear!”

I can’t explain what “Freedom from Fear” actually MEANS, but it’s funny. Anyway, the slogan transforms Penelope, a former roller derby queen, from a campaign clown into a contender. Penny’s tendency to spontaneously improvise during her speeches provides plenty of humor.

This play is also a bawdy sex farce -- two characters are secretly cheating on their spouse. And we hear paranoid conspiracy theories involving a planned takeover of Nebraska. The cartoonish characters, crude language and violence (played for laughs, but still jarring) are reminiscent of a Quentin Tarantino film.

This outrageous comedy sails so far over the top that it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. But for those who like relentless energetic satire, “The Totalitarians” offers a wild sprint through comedic mayhem, and something of a cautionary tale.

“The Totalitarians” continues at Sacramento’s Capital Stage through July 24.

Jeff Hudson

Contributing Arts Reporter and Theatre Critic

Jeff Hudson has been contributing arts-related stories to Capital Public Radio since 1995, with an emphasis on theater and classical music. He attends over 100 performances annually, ranging from modern musicals to medieval masses.   Read Full Bio 

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