'Tail! Spin!': Theater Review

Tail Spin Production Still - H 2014
Carol Rosegg

Tail Spin Production Still - H 2014

Literal dirty politics at their funniest

SNL alum Rachel Dratch is among the talented comic performers in this theater piece skewering philandering politicians with their own words

Thanks to the scandals engendered by certain sleazy politicians, the previously innocuous phrases "wide stance" and "hiking the Appalachian Trail" have taken on a decidedly sordid connotation. Hilariously exploiting the faux pas of such real-life politicos as former Idaho Senator Larry Craig, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former Florida Representative Mark Foley and the unfortunately named Anthony Weiner, Tail! Spin! hoists its subjects on their own verbal petards.

Previously seen a couple of years back at the New York International Fringe Festival, the show has now returned for a commercial Off-Broadway engagement with several of its original performers, including the priceless Rachel Dratch of Saturday Night Live fame. It was created by Mario Correa, a former congressional aide and lobbyist who clearly knows the territory well.

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The piece is wittily staged by Dan Knechtges; it consists entirely of actual e-mails, text messages, IMs, press conferences, tweets and interviews, edited and presented for maximum comic effect. Thus we see Craig (Sean Dugan) haplessly explaining, "I'm a fairly wide guy," about his infamous wandering foot incident in a Minneapolis airport bathroom stall, as his wife (Dratch) comments, "I asked myself if I missed something somewhere."

Weiner, whose very name gets the expected laugh, is amusingly depicted by Nate Smith as a sneering, arrogant sex maniac, with his Twitter account recipients, including a stripper named Ginger, offering their own acerbic asides. Foley (Arnie Burton) is seen manically reciting the lascivious text messages he sent to young male congressional pages, one of whom is heard responding with Valley Girl-style vocal inflections.

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Coming across worst of all is the endlessly self-involved, clearly deluded Sanford, brilliantly lampooned by Tom Galantich, whose rambling confessional press conference in which he sang the praises of his Argentine mistress is followed by Dratch’s deadpan Jenny Sanford commenting, "It was awful on so many levels." Her disgusted facial expression when relating how her husband asked for "permission" to travel to Argentina is alone worth the price of admission.

The bare-bones production features informatory projections and has been updated since its premiere to include such recent developments as Weiner’s ill-fated mayoral race, Sanford’s lengthy Facebook announcement of his break-up with his girlfriend, and his subsequent astonishing election to the U.S. congress. The performers each play multiple roles, including such media figures as Sean Hannity, Matt Lauer, Wolf Blitzer and, inevitably in Dratch’s case, Barbara Walters.

Much like Forbidden Broadway, this seems the sort of show that can run a long time with frequent revisions since it doesn’t appear likely that politicians are going to learn to keep it in their pants anytime soon.

Cast: Arnie Burton, Rachel Dratch, Sean Dugan, Tom Galantich, Nate Smith

Director: Dan Kenchtges

Playwright: Mario Correa

Set and projection designer: Caite Hevner Kemp

Costume designer: Jennifer Caprio

Lighting designer: Ryan O’Gara

Sound designer: John Emmett O’Brien

Presented by Billy Zavelson, Marianne Mills, Ben Feldman, Kristen Stein, Flying Bulldog Productions, Paula Kaminsky Davis, Jeffrey Sosnick/Neal Rubinstein, Jamie DeRoy