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Theater | Theater Review

'Debate This!' Gets Laughs With Political Humor

October 12, 2000|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Debate This!" at Masquers Cabaret is a welcome respite--an intelligent political satire in the ocean of sophomoric humor swamping the media before the presidential election.

Granted, this show--a mock debate among presidential candidates Al Gore (Ryan Anglin), George W. Bush (David Herbelin) and Ralph Nader (Chad Fifer), moderated by Ted Koppel (Michael Ross)--is a pointedly topical offering with a limited shelf life. When the chips fall in early November, this material may seem instantaneously dated.

But in the meantime, see this show and brace yourself for big laughs. Ross, a dead-on Koppel sporting a hairpiece that should be stored in its own hangar, also directs. Despite a few clunky segues, the proceedings are surprisingly seamless, especially since they are at least partially off the cuff. Questions from the audience are actively solicited, and two days after the first presidential debate, "fuzzy math" and other last-minute additions had already been spliced into the mix.

Anglin is a subtly effective Gore, although he's too often relegated to the role of straight man, the "sensible" candidate who preaches that Old Time Leftism to the liberal-chic choir. The bulk of the outrageous quips falls to Herbelin, whose bumbling, bubbasque Bush has a comical twitch and a mush-mouthed delivery that make us suspect he's recently swallowed his chaw.

Not that Nader is a serious contender for the big win, but for the purposes of hilarity, we're glad he's included in this forum. When asked if he has the 15% of the vote necessary to be included, Fifer's Nader retorts, "In this neighborhood, I'm polling at 43%." (Masquers is located near the Beverly Center, a chichi yuppie enclave if there ever was one.)

You'll fall off your rostrum. Fuzzy math notwithstanding, it all adds up to a rousing entertainment. In fact, these guys are almost as funny as their real-life counterparts.

BE THERE

"Debate This!" Masquers Cabaret, 8334 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles. Thursdays, 9:30 p.m., through Oct. 26. Also Nov. 1, 9:30 p.m. $10. (323) 653-4848. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

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