The View From K Street Steak
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
April 12, 2007
Most of us don't know how Washington really works and most don't really want to. We may have an idea about all the political wrangling, the backstabbing and partisan bullshit that goes on every day right under our noses, but we don't truly understand the nature of the game. The View from K Street Steak attempts to shed a little light on this for us and in some ways it succeeds.
The idea is that we get to see how the enigmatic group of advocates we call lobbyists interact with politicians. Comprised of a series of short scenes set in a hotel room where a bipartisan retreat is being held, the program offers us peeks into the game that lobbyists and politicians play. The subjects of the scenes range from "God" lobbyists pushing their weight around to the negative influence of even the most innocuous sex scandal to the way that people are bought and sold in this pitiless political world. Between each scene, a "ventriloquist" with a live "dummy" perform vaudeville-inspired bits that are mostly of a political nature.
Playwright Walt Stepp has written a dry, clever play that has some insight, though I did not feel that I was given any new information. For example, I am aware that in the world of politicians and lobbyists if you don't pay you don't play and everyone has a price. We know that a sex scandal can crush a piece of legislation and that the game is a power struggle between competing egos. But where is the critique of these subjects? The play purports to be satire but I didn't find it very funny. Still, satire isn't required to be funny, but it should be a critique of something (usually of those in a position of authority) and this is where I think the script falls a little short. I never really felt that the play was challenging the current paradigm of lobbyist and politicians.
There are some scenes that come much closer than others, for example, the scene titled "Snake" in which a politician gives a "God" lobbyist a piece of his mind. I also really liked the funny and very humanizing scene titled "Method" in which the relationship between the congressman and the lobbyist is so complex to them that they play a role reversal game to cope. The dummy acts between scenes actually contain the majority of the playwright's critique, but the scenes are short and underdeveloped.
The saving graces of the production are its strong cast and good direction. Brad Thomason and Samantha Wynn really work the crowd as the ventriloquist and dummy respectively. Rachel Darden Bennett, Bill Green, and Christopher Hurt are all very good in their many roles, bringing energy and character to each one. I especially liked Brian Patrick Mooney and Bill Tatum in their roles. But it is Kwaku Driskell that I found to be the most memorable and versatile. Director Tom Herman does a good job keeping the pace snappy and he ensured a really nice separation of styles between the vaudevillian act and the scenes. Set designer Michael Kerns also deserves a nod for his lovely hotel room set.
The View from K Street Steak is a smart play and the cast makes it worth a look. Sure, I could have stood to be more entertained but I think what I really wanted was more bite in the satire.