2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘Madam Ambassador’ by Duke Ryan

Madam Ambassador is a comedy of serious intent, but a comedy nonetheless. What I really want people to do is enjoy watching the conniving of Valerie Butts, bored senseless in a prairie town and shackled to a second husband who is far too rough a diamond to make it in the sophisticated circles of diplomacy. Watch her try to get rid of both town and spouse and strive for a really nice ambassadorship in a swinging European city. The thing is—those cost huge amounts of money, payable to the president’s campaign fund, and she hardly has bus fare. What is a woman to do? She needs more money and less husband. Come and watch her struggle with that dilemma.

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In this city we see lots of very good theater, moving stories focused often on ethnicity, gender, sexuality, illness, family issues, but surprisingly little about power and politics.  And in Washington!!–arguably the political capital of the world, for better or worse. 

Madam Ambassador is different. It is a satire, which focuses on the bizarre way the United States chooses it top diplomats. The problem, of course, is that many Americans don’t even know that we have diplomats, much less have any idea what they do. Foreign affairs?–armed forces handle that, don’t they? Alas, they do, more and more, partially because of the ridiculous system lampooned in this play.

After a reading in England, a sophisticated Cambridge audience enjoyed it immensely, but, interestingly, they said again and again—do you actually pick ambassadors like that? The answer, of course, is yes– the ones in the nice posts anyway.

The play is directed by George Grant, a very talented young man–a director, actor and teacher–with connections in theater around town, including Shakespeare Theater Company and Theatre Lab.

The star, Patsy Magno, brought the part of Valerie Butts to life brilliantly, first in a reading at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then at another reading at England’s Cambridge University. It was the very encouraging audience reaction to those performances that persuaded me to enter the show in the Capital Fringe Festival.

Doug Graupman, a powerful actor, has taken over the role of Buzz Butts, Valerie’s beleaguered husband, and given it great vitality. He is wonderfully supported by Jim Epstein as Gumpton, Buzz’ pal and helper.

Richard Fiske gives real dimension to a highly political K Street lawyer, a man we can’t help but loathe, and Diana Partridge shows us a sweet, self-righteous, and occasionally thieving Danish housemaid.

I have received invaluable help from John Sowalsky. He is a playwright of absurdist comedies and indispensable in producing promotional materials. Tracey Erbacher and Joanna Cross, share the roles of Assistant Director and Stage Manager, both doing some of each.

As we get deeper into rehearsals, I am constantly struck by what a talented group this is. But my message for your readers is: don’t take my word for it, come and see for yourselves.

At Fort Fringe – The Shop, 607 New York Ave., NW, in Washington, DC.. Look for the colorful awning. 

July 11 at 7:45 pm
July 14 at 4:00 pm
July 18 at 10:00 pm
July 20 at 2:15 pm
July 27 at 9: 15 pm.

PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE HERE, OR BY PHONE  (866) 811-4111, or at the box office.

capfringe1This production is part of the Capital Fringe Festival, July 11-28, 2013, a program of the Washington, DC, non-profit Capital Fringe.


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