by Rebecca Langford with Stephan deGhelder,
Jim Prosser & Nick Santa Maria
Directed by Richard Hopkins
Florida Studio Theatre Goldstein Cabaret
1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota; 941-366-9000
March 24 to June 6

 Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

In FST's third edition of matters to laugh at, humor is less sharply satirical than previously, as if aimed at not offending anyone. (One Sarasota City commissioner, local realtors, and those responsible for TV medicine commercials are likely to take exception.) Parodies in musical solos, medleys and skits are punctuated by spoken phony commercials and "Sixty Seconds" news flashes. All come nonstop, except for 15 minutes intermission within 90, by engaging foursome Jamie Day, Patrick Frankfort, Richie McCall, and Stephen Hope. Along with their assured director and pianist Jim Prosser, they've taken this route before. They handle new material, then, as if part of a repertoire the audience has come to expect, and cabaret-goers respond, if not with guffaws, still appreciatively. 

The performers sprint from side stairs onto the stage, before red velvet atop shiny- blue-draped backdrop, in amply cut suits of blue, red, and purple, except for Jamie in her wide-skirted green jumper. Each has matching tennis shoes, the better to handle Hope's choreographic challenges.  The biggest comes, among jabs at local controversies (like spring in Sarasota facing "No Baseball"), as the players attempt "Crossing Tamiami," to the tune of "The Hokey Pokey." (To get across that highway, which runs the length of Sarasota's "cultural corridor," pedestrians truly defy death. In the skit, they don't all make it.)  A dig at the real estate bubble and bust, "Palms of Prudential," transitions from local to national satire. 

Jamie, as Annie "Can't-Get-a-Man-with-a-Gun" Oakley, imitates Sarah Palin. This "Caribou Barbie" beauty queen, loaded with pink weapons to be used against liberals aiming to destroy the N.R.A., hollers "You Can't Put a Ban on My Gun." Probably the funniest political satire has all but Richie proclaiming the glories of  "Obamalot" (what else but the "New Camelot"?) when in armor and with crown and scepter Richie leaps forth as "Barack, Barack" ("C'est Mois").  He's a hoot! Later, he dodges money-seekers as Obama in a parody of "Hey Big Spender" and spot-on imitates Louis Armstrong singing of woes from forest fires to Chinese drywall in "What a Blunderfilled World."

Audiences respond knowingly to the "Aquarius" parody "Age of Urology" and commercials for medicines with more and more possible side effects. Sondheim's "Not Getting Married" applies here to last minute suspending of a gay couple's marriage.  Both the longest and last sequence is a well conceived "Recession Medley" using "Fiddler on the Roof" melodies. In addition to the major writers' work, materials by Chris Friday, W. Joseph Matheson, and Adam Ratner are inserted throughout Laughing Matters '09.  Music Director is Vince de Mura. Resident Designer Marcella Beckwith is responsible for Costumes and Scenery; Felicia Hall for Lighting; Eric Stahlhammer for (sometimes over-miked) Sound. Stage Managers are Emily C. Hayes and Genevieve Moran. 

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