Regardless of how you feel about our recent election and our new president, there is no denying that it and he have been major boons for the comedy industry.
One such recipient of the humor windfall is certainly The Capitol Steps, those Washington wags who frequently play the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse, as they are doing through March 19 — the satirical group’s first visit since the Trump inaugural.
The Steps, who have been “putting the mock into democracy since 1981,” pride themselves on equal opportunity spoofing of both sides of the aisle. While that is largely true of the current version of their show, they could hardly avoid emphasizing such a comic target as the buffoon-in-chief.
The touring company of five, plus piano accompanist Howard Breitbart — no relationship to Steve Bannon’s former news service, that he will admit to — keeps the 90-minute, intermissionless show in near-constant motion. They perform their snarky skits and song parodies, then duck behind a Capitol Steps logo scrim, only to return soon after in new wigs, costumes and political personas.
Heading the cast with the plum role of Trump is Mike Thornton, who has been impersonating presidents since the Reagan Administration. With the inevitable orange toupee and exaggerated pouty lower lip, he owes a lot to Alec Baldwin’s Trump, but the caricature is more than serviceable. Also on target is Jon Bell’s laconic Barack Obama, hovering over the production with a jaundiced eye to his successor.
Otherwise, nearly every key political operative gets a rib jab or two. There is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, singing “Don’t Know Much About History,” Housing and Urban Development’s Ben Carson (“If We Only Had a Brain (Surgeon)),” presidential string-puller Bannon as The Phantom of the Opera warbling about “The Loonies of the Right” to the tune of “The Music of the Night” and elderly Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer crooning their chief goal (“Stayin’ Alive”).
If not every comic bit succeeds, at least the Steps’ show is impressively topical. There is, for instance, a sequence on Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russian influence case, just days after that happened. On the other hand, Bernie Sanders singing “If There Were No Rich Men” feels a tad stale, but Jack Rowles’s over-the-top rant almost justifies its continued inclusion.
And late in the show, the group resorts to its signature fast-talking spoonerism recitation, “Lirty Dies” (for “Dirty Lies,” get it?). It has never been a very trenchant schtick, but the Sunday afternoon audience seemed to find the slightly risqué results of switched initial consonants hilarious, so there’s no point in picking that nit.
Over the years, administrations have come and gone, but the political satire of The Capitol Steps has remained a constant. So maybe the group’s enduring message is that if you wait long enough, those in office will eventually fade away. And while you wait, you might as well have a few laughs.
THE CAPITOL STEPS, Kravis Center Rinker Playhouse, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Through Sunday, March 19. $40. 561-832-7469.