When Nite Skool's ensemble turned the phrase "gender is a weapon of the patriarchy" into a hilarious grade-school sing-along that also made a convincing case for using the word "they" as a singular pronoun, I thought: "Wow. They've done it. Writer Max Kirchner and 'neo-burlesque' theater group the Libertinis found some humor in the often humorless world of self-described SJW killjoys."
On a 1990s-colored set reminiscent of Saved by the Bell, eight performers with great 1990s character names like Tanya and Brogan and Mickey cycled through several skits. Each skit was set up like a class in one of the core subjects—English, history, sex-ed, and, blissfully, lunch, etc. But instead of giving you the white conqueror's version of each of those subjects, they give you the progressive, anti-colonialist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, sex-positive, body-positive narrative that they only teach you on Tumblr.
Following an ultra-bright opening number that established the show's cheeky tone, first period featured a series of humorously reductive summaries of canonical literary masterpieces, which culminated in Brogan (Woody Shticks) mounting a full-throated defense of Jodi Picoult's The Pact. He was advocating for the right of one of the characters to "bone competent firemen," and he was doing it while rocking a Freddie Mercury mustache and pink Daisy Dukes. It was a sight to behold. I was just as pleased watching Stacy (Hattie Hellkat) give a radical feminist takedown of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
All I remember of the lunchroom dance skit was a giant bottle of ranch dressing ejaculating on a submissive salad, an actor in a pizza costume dancing with another actor in a peanut butter and jelly costume, and a vat of meat that Betty (Tootsie Spangles) developed an intimate relationship with.
As I ran for a glass of water at intermission—they are never going to air-condition the Annex, and they never should—I couldn't see how this funny, punchy, lively crew could keep the show alive for a whole second act.
Turned out they couldn't. At least not in the performance I saw. With the exception of a number that had Woody Shticks tap-dancing in a gold Speedo and top hat while talking about the "disaster math" he has to do to manage his mountains of student-loan debt in a sad but brilliant display about how the culture doesn't value the thing he's good at, the didactic skits began to drag on and on.
The problem was radical inclusion. There were eight performers, and every performer participated individually in all the major skits. Every actor got to say a little thing about sex education, every actor got to humorously summarize and skewer a canonical piece of literature, every actor got to teach their little lesson about X. It's worth mentioning that each night there is a different surprise "substitute teacher" who does a 5 to 10 minute bit of stand-up or storytelling.
By the second act, even the very supportive audience seemed to get tired of patting themselves on the back for agreeing that, indeed, depression is an illness that deserves serious consideration, and that, indeed, orgasms don't have to be the point of sex. Though we should be radically inclusive in our politics, creating a piece of art demands radical exclusion and the killing of darlings for the sake of pace and humor.
But listen, the first act is worth the price of admission.