‘Hexagon’ Strikes Again

Members Will Take Part in Annual Show

Posted March 3, 2004 at 2:14pm

Backstage at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Georgetown, dancers are making final costume changes, the director is trying to alter a scene, and off in the corner President Bush is applying makeup.

Well, it’s not really President Bush, but John Allnut, the man spoofing the commander in chief in “Hexagon,” the annual variety show dedicated to getting Washington, D.C., to laugh at itself.

“I tape a lot of his speeches but I also read a lot of his stuff,” said Allnut on how he prepares for the role of Bush. In a few minutes, he will be on stage as the 43rd president performing a musical number in which he butchers the English language and dares his critics to “call me stupid.”

But this year’s production of “Hexagon,” titled “Wee Puns of Mass Distraction,” doesn’t just satire the top of the executive branch; it also takes aim at Martha Stewart, the Washington Redskins and the Democratic presidential contenders, and it does so with more choreography and costume changes than an Elton John farewell concert. Even Bush’s daughters, Jenna and Barbara Bush, get a good-natured ribbing in the production.

While the show gets a majority of its material from politics, it also takes a swipe at Beltway road construction and the springtime tradition of tourists crowding into the city.

Intercut throughout the production are fake news reports similar to those found on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “Saturday Night Live’s” Weekend Update. According to John V. “Skip” Maraney, a veteran of “Hexagon” since the 1960s, the producers of “Saturday Night Live” actually got the idea for their tongue-in-cheek news sketch from “Hexagon.”

“They heard about this little group in Washington that had this great idea, and so that’s where they got it, or at least that’s the story,” Maraney said.

In a tradition dating back to 1988, “Hexagon” will offer a “Congress Goes to Hexagon” night that will feature performances by Members of Congress. This year’s participants for the March production include Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Martin Frost (D-Texas), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Scott McInnis (R-Colo.), as well as D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D). Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) and Albert Wynn (D-Md.) might also participate but have not confirmed.

According to Jess Fassler, Rep. Frost’s press secretary, the Congressman has wanted to do the show in the past but couldn’t due to conflicts in his schedule. “He’s glad that he could help out a worthy cause,” Fassler said.

In what might be the most cutting segment of the show, dancers and actors parody the Texas House Democrats’ attempt to stop redistricting in the Lone Star State by fleeing to Oklahoma in a skit titled “the Texas Shuffle.” On “Congress Goes to Hexagon” night, the segment will open up with Texas Reps. Frost and Barton bantering back and forth on the subject.

When asked if they could get House Majority Leader and Texan Tom DeLay (R) to join, Maraney joked, “Tom DeLay? We’d have rocks thrown up on stage. We’ve asked him, we’ve asked whoever wants to be in it.”

Echoed Darrell Capwell, an assistant to the producer, “We’d love to have Tom DeLay.”

Since its first performance in 1956, “Hexagon” has donated all proceeds from the show to a local charity. Thus far, the performances have raised more than $3 million overall.

This year the proceeds will go to Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April, a nonprofit organization that works to rehabilitate homes for low-income elderly and disabled homeowners, families with children, as well as facilities such as schools and shelters. Maraney expects the production to take in somewhere between $75,000 and $145,000 this year. “We always try to aim for the century mark,” he said.

While the production quality is first rate, the lines laugh-out-loud funny and the charitable nature of the organization noble, Hexagon’s greatest accomplishment might be its ability to work the name Kucinich into a musical number.

The show runs through March 20. Tickets start at $20. For more information on the show, call (202) 333-SHOW or visit the group’s Web site, www.hexagon.org