Christopher Chen's political satire could use a fact-check.
Mutt, playwright Christopher Chen's live-action political cartoon currently in a co-production by Stage Left Theatre and Red Tape Theatre, has a few good points about the way we talk about race in this country, and specifically in this country's politics. But those ideas get lost amid a crush of heavy-handed and broadly played bits.
Chen's conceit is that the Republican Party, after losing the 2008 election to Barack Obama, finally decides to face up to its race problem—not by making any changes to policy or platforms, but by finding a mixed-race candidate of their own. After consulting with "race management operative" Hannah (Aurora Adachi-Winter), they decide to find an Asian, "the safe minority." Nick (Michael Reyes), a congressman with a Chinese father and white mother, is vetted but tossed out for his unironic love of Milli Vanilli. Then the party finds the seemingly perfect candidate in Len (Daniel Smith) a decorated war veteran whose bloodlines represent the culmination of every major race. Does it matter that he might be a psychopath?
We follow Nick as he teams up with Hannah to run against Len as a Democrat, and Chen proceeds to paint a number of parties with a broad brush: Republicans are craven, Democrats are indecisive, progressives are angry and impossible to please, TV talking heads are robotic blowhards. Of course, as our current election cycle is proving out, party brass don't actually get to just decide who their presidential candidate will be. With caricatures so sweeping Chen clearly isn't attempting realism, but the intentional misrepresentation rather dilutes the commentary. Vanessa Stalling's production has some nice moments (and Paul Deziel's largely GIF-based projection design is delightful), but too often equates loud with funny.
Stage Left Theatre and Red Tape Theatre at Theater Wit. By Christopher Chen. Directed by Vanessa Stalling. With Aurora Adachi-Winter, Nicole Michelle Haskins, Ian Daniel McLaren, Michael Reyes, Daniel Smith, Alejandra Vivanco, Mary Williamson. Running time: 1hr 40mins; no intermission.