Speaking of elections, there's a story in today's Washington Post here about an election in Mexico where a dead man won his race. Well, sort of -- he actually faked his death a decade ago to avoid a sexual assault charge, and the party that ran him didn't know about it. Either way, the guy's in a wee bit of trouble.
But it reminded me of a wonderfully hilarious play I saw in Chicago about 10 years ago, Early and Often, by
Thomas R. Wolfe and Barbara Wallace, both Chicagoans and married to one another, who wrote for the TV series Murphy Brown, among other things. It's about a dead man running for alderman in 1960 Chicago, and the title comes from the well-known Chicago admonition about when to vote.
It's all extremely funny, but especially starts off cleverly. When you enter the theater, covered in bunting and political placards, a guy greets you at the door, asking you to vote for him. And as the audience settles into the theater-in-the-round, this fellow wanders around, humorously adlibbing with everyone about his candidacy. Then the lights go down -- and when they come up and the play starts...this guy you've gotten to know is lying on the stage, dead.
(What's clever and nice is that the play needs a body in various points, and this opening gives the poor fellow something to do during the evening, other than just lie there.)
The point of the play on the surface is how the Democratic machine tries to figure out what to do, though there's a lot more going on. It's really about big-city politics and could be put on anywhere. Most companies though would think it's only about Chicago. It's not, but it plays best there -- in fact, the theater company where I saw it kept extending and extending (and extending) its wildly-successful run. But I just discovered that it had a recent run in Los Angeles -- and I missed it. Well, maybe they or someone will do it again, Here's a generally very-positive review; the critic's biggest complaint seems to be about the company.
One line I remember is, "Dead people have been voting for so long in Chicago, it's time they have one of their own candidates." I also recall a very funny seen during a Catholic confessional where they priest won't grant absolution to the politician until he agrees to fix pot holes.
The writers had a follow-up sequel, The Great Society, which alas I didn't get to see it. I hope to at some point, but in the meantime, if you ever see Early and Often playing near you, try to go.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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