By Alex Wukman
I hate to admit this but, for years I had studiously avoided going to see any of the Tamarie Cooper shows for various reasons, most of which involved me being a self-righteous ass.For much of the 2000s I thought, like most 20 somethings do, that any “yearly theatre experience” that had been going on since the 1990s had to be moldy, outdated and was only attracting audiences because of the cult of personality. And like most 22-year-olds, I was wrong. Tamarie Cooper’s new show, the United States of Tamarie, is fantastic. From the opening number America is Awesome, which has 29-95 blogger Joe Folladori showing off some of his non Mathlete related musical chops, to the sublime self satire of Born Again Texan; Cooper and company create a musical amusement park that helps to remind Houstonians why she has endured.
In a show subtitled An All-American Revue (Made in China) that’s being performed in an age when politics and parody are damn near indistinguishable, it is almost impossible to divorce the content of the play from the larger political discourse. So it is with a great amount of respect, and some envy, that I say that Cooper, who is credited with writing the libretto, and Patrick Reynolds, who is credited with writing the book, managed to studiously avoid some of the problems in modern political humor. In Obamaland they were able to poke fun at some of the TEA Party’s more outrageous claims, such as President Obama is a Manchurian Muslim, Socialist who was born in an African country where 78 percent of the population self identifies as Christian without sounding like members of the John Birch Society.
In the follow up to Obamaland, appropriately titled Happy Liberal Land, Folladori skewers the idea of a country run exclusively according to Liberal ideas and in the process answers a question that was asked earlier this year, specifically “Can the Left Laugh at Itself.” The only problem with the show is that the biggest laughs came to early. The song “Old Glory,” which was c-owritten by Reynolds and John Duboise, steals the show very early in the first act and sets the bar incredibly high. Almost a little too high for the rest of the show. What problems there are are minor and don’t prevent the show from going on to be one of the best musical comedies performed in Houston for years while offering a hip alternative to Stage’s mega hit The Great American Trailer Park Musical, which has already been extended and will most likely be extended again before the summer season is over.
The United States of Tamarie: An All-American Revue (Made in China) runs Wednesday through Satruday until August 20 at Diverseworks, 1117 East Freeway, For more information and tickets call 713.522.2723 or go to catastrophictheatre.com.