©2009 L.A. Theatre Works; (P)2009 L.A. Theatre Works
Mastergate: A story of government self-abuse (get it?) is a fun little send-up of the Iran-Contra hearings from the writer who brought us MASH. I'm a little young to remember the hearings themselves, so I was hoping this piece would help me to grasp their cultural significance. I'm honestly not sure if it did or not. It was, however, a fun, quick listen. It's all wordplay ("Our chief goal is to answer the question: what did the president know, and does he have any idea that he knew it?!"), which many including me typically regard as the lowest form of humor. But in the hands of a master, and at 90 minutes--neither too long nor too short--it's pretty enjoyable, if not laugh out loud funny very often.
What I found most interesting about the piece though is how dated it feels. Government scandals certainly aren't a thing of the past, but the humor in this piece all comes from the absurd efforts of the various characters to justify their misdeeds. Today, when government leaders want to start wars without formal cause, or torture suspects, or kill US citizens with drones, they just get the Justice Department to issue a statement saying it's legal or to the CIA to declare that the country in question is a clear and present danger, and then do whatever they want. Maybe if the Obama administration had chosen to really investigate their Bush predecessors we would have had surreal hearings like this one, but personally I found Mastergate quaint. Back then, there was a pretext of reasonableness, which made unreasonable actions hard to justify and thus comical. Today, they just do whatever they want and don't bother trying to justify it.
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