Monday, October 25, 2010

Of Thee I Sing by George Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind, Ira Gershwin (1932)

Summary:  Political handlers have decided that the best platform for presidential hopeful Mr. Wintergreen to run on is love.  After all, Americans can't resist a good love story.  They create a pageant, where the lucky winner will follow Wintergreen to the White House and assume the position of First Lady.  Meanwhile, Wintergreen falls in love with Mary (a campaign worker who makes dynamite corn muffins).  Wintergreen wins the election, the country falls in love with Mary and pageant winner Diana returns to stir up some conflict.

  Antics for days!  This is the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize, and one of the only comedies to win the award in the 20s or 30s (the 1937 winner was also a comedy and also written by Kaufman).  Much like State of the Union (1946), this play caters to America's fascination with the inner workings of politics.  An overall message of "those people in Washington don't know what they're doing any better than you do."

The humor in this play remains relatively intact.  Though sexist statements about women date the play, they also give it a sort of antique charm.  Like State of the Union and You Can't Take It With You, the humor in this play is smart an exists on numerous levels (dialogue, puns, zany plot antics).  The play contains a running gag about a man named Mr. Throttlebottom.  No one can ever remember his name, why he is there or what he does.  Throttlebottom himself doesn't seem to understand the duties of Vice President (which he is!) because no one can explain them to him.

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