May 2020. Michigan State University. “Welcome to our last class of Political Philosophy 101, live streaming…the only class students click in to watch class after class, week after week. Good for me!” The delivery of that last line sets a bar for priceless delivery this actor hits many, many times.
Professor B. is pouring himself a glass of wine on camera, clearly having had a head start. He wears a stained T-shirt and pajama pants. Apparently he’s been delivering the exact same lecture all semester in reaction to Donald Trump’s election. Students are in a pool as to whether he’ll crack up and when. There’s a petition to get him fired. Having recently divorced the Dean, whom he found “boinking a visiting Polish professor,” tenure may no longer protect the beleaguered instructor.
The truth is he loves to teach and is repeating not out of laziness, but “because this is what you darlings need to know right now.” This last class avowedly strives to plead Professor B.’s case, but also vary and entertain. To this end, the lecture begins with relating the positions of Socrates and Plato while dancing “The Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite and later employs hand puppets.
All I can tell you is that history, philosophy and the stand taken are smart as hell. Coloquials make the lesson contemporary and accessible, not to mention extremely funny. Description of The Republic is spot-on, its conclusion unexpected.
Professor B. responds to a few real time chat messages, speaks candidly about his reaction to the pandemic and gets bitterly personal concerning the Dean. And he drinks. At times, we see his face almost against the screen. There’s discussion of possible student evaluations and eventually a text exchange with his ex, the Dean.
The play’s denouement is extremely clever, resolution to what seems a forgone conclusion a complete surprise. The Prof has something up his sleeve if only students will cooperate.
Playwright Monica Bauer doesn’t waste a word. The political tutorial remains coherent (NOT pedantic) in the midst of what appears to be Professor B.’s dissipation. His homemade methodology arrives imaginative and credible. The author creates a highly sympathetic, somehow familiar, right-minded character for whom we root.
John Fico’s acting and John D. Fitzgibbon’s direction are inspired. Expressions, gestures, tone and timing, couldn’t be better. What looks easy on screen is, in fact, extremely difficult to pull off. We relate to Professor B., in fact, can’t wait to see what comes next. Camera work is simply wonderful.
A piece for all of us who are frustrated, pissed off and need to laugh.
Good Works Productions presents
Democracy Sucks by Monica Bauer
Directed by John D. Fitzgibbon
Featuring John Fico
Recorded and Designed by John D. Fitzgibbon and John Fico
Photos courtesy of the production
Part of East of Edinburgh Goes Virtual
Curated by Jessica Hart, 59E59 Associate Curator, this virtual offering celebrates works that capture the spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe with a diverse offering of plays that transfer well to the digital medium.
The shows (there are nine) are available for audiences to view on-demand from July 15 – July 25 via the 59E59 Theaters website. The $20 ($18 for 59E59 Members) festival pass gives one household access to all nine shows. The pass can be purchased via www.59e59.org.