Trump in Space offers toothless satire for troubled times | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Trump in Space offers toothless satire for troubled times

Laugh Out Loud's LA import can't find the funny.


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Few things age as quickly as topical satire, especially in an age of unrestrained Twitter bursts and 24-hour news cycles. Trump in Space, a toothless political satire created a couple years ago by the LA branch of Second City (book and lyrics by Landon Kirksey and Gillian Bellinger, music by Sam Johnides and Tony Gonzalez) and now revived here, is a case in point. Back in 2017, this show won an award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. But a lot has happened in the country since then, almost none of it reflected in this local premiere, which spends at least as much time parodying tropes from Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica as poking gentle fun at the Trumpists and a handful of Democrats (specifically Senators Sanders and Warren and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi). The satirical side of the material is much more timid than what you might see on Saturday Night Live or The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Most of the political humor is based on the theory that you can get a laugh by just mentioning the name of someone in the news. And the sci-fi and rom-com portions of the show are no deeper and no more sincere than you might see in an improv set. John Hildreth's staging features a cast of energetic, pretty good performers, none of whom can wring strong, deep laughs from this material. The show is billed as a musical, but if there are trained singers in the cast, I could not tell from the croaking performances (under the musical direction of Phil Caldwell) opening night.  v

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