A blistering indictment of this country’s current political predicament, Jon Robin Baitz’s Vicuña crackles with immediacy, wit and danger. Biatz has taken the classic fable about the Emperor and his new clothes and given it a modern updating. While some dramatic beats in the story are slightly predictable, the finale is not and feels devastatingly bleak.
The powerful — and possibly prescient — dramedy with sinister underpinnings is made its world premiere mere days before a historic and contentious national presidential election, and that just added to the excitement.
At times broad, at other times sly, Baitz’s savvy satire places in center stage a bombastic presidential candidate whose star is on the rise. Kurt Seaman (played well by Harry Groener) is an all-too familiar character – a blustering real estate tycoon and reality TV star who is running for President. He bullies a world-renowned tailor Anselm Kassar (played with gravity by Brian George) into creating a suit for his final presidential debate, convinced it will secure him a win. Also in the mix is Kassar’s opinionated apprentice Amir (a brilliant and intense performance by Ramie Monsef) who forges an unexpected friendship with Seaman’s campaign manager (and daughter) Srilanka (with Samantha Sloyan also giving an outstanding performance) whose loyalty is tested by her father’s unpredictable and inflammatory outbursts.
All the checks are there — Seaman is arrogant (check) ignorant (check) bombastic and prone to nonsense babble. If anything, the character is painted a little too blandly, and not colorfully enough, but that toning down does add to his dangerously ‘everyman’ qualities.
Some of the gags are a little too obvious — Seaman’s father’s name is Adolf! — but for the most part Vicuña is at times a glib comedy and at other times an incisive and insightful satire.
Vicuña by Jon Robin Baitz
Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre
9820 Washington Blvd.,
Culver City CA
Runs until November 20, 2016.
Tuesdays through Fridays, 8 p.m.
Saturdays, 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays, 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Approximately two hour and 20 minutes, with one intermission.
Range from $25-70.00
Purchase tickets here or call (213) 628-2772