When Topical Humor Goes Right

Making what may very well be every pop culture reference since late 2005 is a fast way to avoid any real substance, but when done with wit, as in I DIG DOUG, it is also a quick route to laughs. The play, written and performed by Karen DiConcetto and Rochelle Zimmerman, engulfs its audience in a hyper-current whirlwind from the first sound cue. DiConcetto and Zimmerman (in one of her numerous characters) are college application essay-writing high school seniors who casually profess their social superiority to young female celebrities of the one-name variety (Paris, Lindsay, Hillary, et al). But when Paris’ post-prison morals become insufferable and a reality show is exposed as a work of fiction, DiConcetto’s “Girl” adopts democratic presidential nominee, Douglas Ward (a caricature of Howard Dean), as her new celebrity kindred spirit.

Girl embarks on a pilgrimage with her friend (Zimmerman) to Iowa to help Doug win the election. Along the way, the girls encounter everything from gun-toting animal rights activists to a waitress whose son has been sent to tour Iraq … in Cats.

Girl learns something about herself and about the world from each outlandish situation and the audience gets the chance to laugh at her US Weekly-induced naïveté. Witnessing a commercially-courted communist hippie named Echo teach Girl about the science and marketing behind trends like skinny jeans and the iPhone is at once pitiful and joyous (not to mention an absolute riot).

I DIG DOUG is a hysterical parody of modern society. Though it will be an obsolete relic two years from now, it is fresh in the meantime. The play thrives on its snappy, witty writing and nimble direction (by Bert V. Royal of Dog Sees God). While neither of the two actresses are fully believable as their superficial, vapid characters, that is the production’s intention. Zimmerman admirably accomplishes chameleon-like character shifts in only seconds, and DiConcetto skillfully finds the soul beneath her character’s shallow exterior.

A clever revelation at the end ties up a play that otherwise has had no ending in sight. Up to that point, the audience laughs along with blind faith that the plot is going somewhere. It is a testament to the play’s exuberant frivolity that this doesn’t occur to anyone sooner.

Saturday Night Live-esque topicality is nothing new, but it has not been done so well since Anna Nicole kicked the bucket. The brief moments that pass for substance in I DIG DOUG, despite being smartly constructed, are not the main point. In the end, fluff is just fun.

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