A so-so satire

Contemporary's 'The Rescue' is toothless
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  July 2, 2014

POWER PLAYERS Hinds, Lanni, Price, Maxwell, and Orabone. [Photo by Seth Jacobson Photography]

There’s this poor country whose medium of exchange is goats (actually, promises of parts of a goat — promissory goats). And there’s this foundering company that manufactures only tire patches and personal vibrators. What happens when a representative of the latter is sent to improve conditions in the former?

It all unfolds with the ridiculousness and confusions you’d expect, in The Rescue, by local playwright Ron Maine, premiering at Contemporary Theater Company, directed by Maggie Cady (through July 5). It’s an enterprising piece of DIY theater, some of the acting strong, some shaky, the tale imaginative but with a careless plot and occasionally stretching its outlandish gags past the breaking point.

Political parody is the attempt, but what could be pointed satire is blunted on a soft target that offers no resistance: foreign aid. It’s no secret that US economic largesse can be wasted, but the example devised here for laughs bears no resemblance to an actual instance, so the satiric bite is toothless.

In the offices of General Dynamo Systems Inc., the CEO (Ron Giles) is fuming over the company’s latest negative balance sheet. He chews out the executive responsible, Junior (Peter Bucci), who has been spending too much money purchasing ads from a pretty blond sales rep he has his eye on, but since he is the boss’s son, he smirks rather than repents.

Meanwhile, in the Oval Office of a Super-Power President (Dave Price), this boss is curious that his country’s foreign aid is going to “cattle rustlers and horse thieves.” He’s too mad to calm down by playing with the toy soldiers on his desk, but he does come up with an idea to get businesses to act as intermediaries in dispersing money to developing countries and supplying their particular expertise.

The president wants the first recipient country to be one so undeveloped that the slightest improvement would look substantial. That’s where the People’s Republic of Lesser Mondraga comes into the picture, a nation with no electricity, only three automobiles, and one truck, though the engine in that last vehicle was sold, as was the airport that the Super-Power country supplied on a previous occasion. In return, the country would relinquish all its oil on favorable terms. That (surprise!) it’s only palm oil isn’t expanded into a plot complication, merely mentioned initially for a laugh.

Dynamo Systems is the company chosen because their application for supplying “emergency relief systems” didn’t make clear that it was describing tire patching kits. So Junior and $50 million in aid, minus a two-percent service charge, ship off along with a government representative, soon-to-be-buddy Karl the Advisor (Rico Lanni). They get to know each other and eventually sit down for a couple of bantering interludes. The actors do well in establishing a growing connection between the two emissaries, especially through one lengthy, entertaining discussion of politics.

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