Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Dark Porch Theatre is presenting a brand new play by Martin Schwartz called The Diplomats. After watching this two hour plus farce, I was reminded of the King in the The King and I when he says "is a puzzlement." It was a puzzlement. There are good things about this play but it needs serious cutting to about 70 to 80 minutes. Sometimes it reminded me of a Three Stooges comedy, what with all the slapping among the actors. Yes, it's a raucous comedy but maybe just too disorderly.
The plot takes place in an imaginary Central Asian republic where four Western diplomats are organizing a performance festival in a play called The West Laughs. The four are called cultural attachés and, frankly, they are hapless in their endeavors. They are: ostentatious American diplomat J. Lawrence Fishbein (Dan Kurtz), who continuously shoots forth his right hand and cries out "J. Lawrence Fishbein, United States Embassy" alone and in public much too much; his German counterpart Renate (Courtney Merrell), who is obsessed with the notion that the American has a circumcised penis; the skeptical and sardonic Brit Catherine (Karen Offereins); and the Frenchman Pierre-Francois (Tavis Kammet), who constantly suffers from a stomach ache because he has eaten fresh produce. There is also an American Ambassador (Ryan Hayes) who shouts out maxims, an Embassy Secretary (Margery Fairchild) who probably is more normal than the rest of them, and a shifty Deputy Minister (Geo Epsilanty) of the so called corrupt republic which is having a human rights disaster.
Dan Kurtz is a great comedian and he reminds me of Andy Samberg with his facial expressions. However, there is great repetition in his actions, almost to access. Courtney Merrell gives a first-rate performance with great vigor and hilarity while Karen Offereins is very good as the frenzied Catherine. Tavis Kammet has a flux French accent and gives an entertaining performance. Margery Fairchild shines as the embassy secretary, and Ryan Hayes is acceptable as the monocratic ambassador. Geo Epsilanty looks and acts like a Deputy Minister of a central Asian country.
Playwright Martin Schwartz also energetically directs this production.
The Diplomats plays at Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy Street, San Francisco through May 28, 2016. For tickets and information, visit www.darkporchtheatre.org.