Terry Baum gets more than she bargains for when she volunteers with the Green Party. Fed up with the Patriot Act and the way the Democrats are responding, she soon finds herself running for Congress with no political experience. With fellow member Ilsa (played by pianist and composer Scrumbly Koldewyn in a lovely wig and leopard-print dress) as her manager, she becomes a write-in candidate on the 2004 ballot in San Francisco and journeys from stammering, apologetic neophyte to eloquent, confident politician. Baum portrays this transformation well, but BAUM FOR PEACE: The True Adventures of the Slightly World-Renowned Lesbian Playwright Who Ran for Congress, written and performed by Baum, ultimately suffers from inconsistent style and form. The songs, with music by Koldewyn and lyrics by David Hyman, are reminiscent of the 1960s/1970s political revues and vaudeville. With fun, silly rhymes like "arrow" and "Clarence Darrow" and “don’t have time to spare-o,” this musical style is fighting the straight-forward style of the rest of the show. Every time a song starts, the audience needs time to adjust. When the songs ends, Baum abruptly switches back to her more serious narrative (although there are a handful of jokes in the dialogue). One wishes that she would pick one of the storytelling forms, creating either a frothy yet smart political revue or a tighter narrative. Baum sells the songs, but going back and forth between the two styles throws her off at times, creating a shaky and uneven performance.
There are some nice elements despite the consistency problems. Baum’s character is engaging and inspires empathy, and the political process she navigates is fascinating and enlightening. The best moment of the piece occurs when the results of the voting come in. Baum has gotten 2.9% of the vote and is dismayed at the tiny percentage. Ilsa, however, is overjoyed. This is the largest percentage any small-party write-in candidate has gotten in United States history. It is then Baum realizes that with all her optimism, she never really had a chance. Her face falls as though she’s known this fact inside all along but ignored it with all the campaign excitement. She accepts her small success with a smile and moves on.
In spite of its weak points, BAUM FOR PEACE’s story lingers after the performers have left the stage, perhaps because the audience is much like Baum-- outraged citizens who want to be heard.