You remember Robert Reich, don’t you? He was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, serving during the first administration. He’s now a Berkeley prof and a blogger. Turns out he’s also a playwright, and his play “Public Exposure: An Indecent Political Farce,” is being performed in Santa Rosa, about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco.
Before I describe the play, let me remind you that Reich served a liberal president who almost fell out of office because he couldn’t keep his distinguished (that is bent) organ of reproduction tightly zipped. Do you have that thought well in mind? Also, are you familiar with the psychiatric disorder called “projection”? “Projection” is defined as “A defense mechanism, operating unconsciously, in which what is emotionally unacceptable in the self is unconsciously rejected and attributed (projected) to others.”
Okay, now that you’ve placed in the forefront of your mind both the nature of the Presidency in which Reich served and the meaning of projection, you should enjoy the plot summary our local paper gives of Reich’s play:
Dodds Delzell, an outstanding actor at the College of Marin during its Golden Era who has since performed with many Bay Area companies, is perfectly cast as Bill Humphrey, a TV talk show host whose world view is somewhere to the right of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. The opening minutes are a minor masterpiece of timing and discipline. Hands clasped on a curved desk, an expressionless Delzell sits zombielike as he waits for the cameras to roll. The only sign he is alive is a series of carefully spaced throat clearings. Then, as the on-air light flashes, he breaks into a maniacal grin and begins to skewer his guests. Each verbal homicide is accompanied by the thumbs up gesture that symbolizes the show’s slogan, “We expose, you watch.” It’s simultaneously chilling and fascinating.
Citing his enormous popularity, Humphrey’s ex-wife, producer and associate host, Irma Sunquist (energetically interpreted by Sheri Lee Miller), proposes that he make himself available as a candidate for president. If he wins, she intends to be his administration’s Karl Rove.
“You’ll have all the attention,” she tells him, “I’ll have the power.”
At first, Humphrey resists because he has a secret. For some time he has been seeing the head of the Langwell Clinic, a practice famous for its celebrity makeovers, seeking help in correcting an embarrassing physical defect. The problem is with (here’s where the need for delicacy enters) his “member.” Specifically, it’s bent. To the left. As Irma drily observes when she learns about it: “Who would have imagined? Bill Humphrey … a lefty!”
Ray Langwell, the clinic’s head (played with droll authority by Tim Kniffen), is eager to effect a cure. His dream is to straighten the millions of other bent members in the world, using the marketing slogan, “Hang well with Langwell.” Happily for both, success finally comes, which Humphrey takes as a sign that he can win the presidential race against liberal Gov. Louise Hutton (company veteran mollie boice, who likes to keep her names lower-cased) by exposing his restored symmetry as a way of demonstrating to the voters that he has nothing to hide.
You can imagine what happens next, although Reich’s plot ultimately takes a surprising and somewhat unconvincing turn. Have no fear, however, that what you see will be particularly shocking. It’s all in the spirit of good fun, neatly timed to complement the other absurdities of this election year.
So, Reich who served a liberal President with a bent penis that he figuratively flashed throughout the entire world, has written a play in which it is a conservative talk show host who has the bent penis that he flashes to the entire world. Projection, anyone?
Another point I feel compelled to make here is the fact that Clinton’s escapades so degraded the tone of the Presidency that nobody thinks there’s anything untoward in a former Labor Secretary of the United States of America writing what amounts to a pretty tawdry political farce. One of the things that I’ve really appreciated about the Bush White House is the complete absence of sex scandals. I have enough problems explaining to my elementary school children why Vanessa Hudgens is naked in pictures splashed across magazines and the internet or why Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant at 16 by a teenager to whom she’s not married. I can’t imagine what parents of the late 1990s went through trying to explain sordid Presidential oral sex and cigars to their young ‘uns.