With a full cast of 18 characters, The After-Dinner Joke is made up of busy interactions and shorter skits within the main story. The play is light-hearted and humorous, even as it identifies blatant contradictions in the way that we live our lives.
The After-Dinner Joke follows a young woman, Selby (Jennifer Gottwald), as she navigates her way through the world of politics. She is adamant that not everything is political, but she is increasingly proven wrong.
Selby works for a charity organization and is forced to recognize that people are only interested in contributing to charity if it serves their own interests.
The overarching theme in this story is that it is beneficial to be “charitable,” but only because it helps our own economy.
As Selby learns, advertisements that imply that the rich are generous will be more effective than advertisements that show the horror of reality in developing countries.
With so many characters moving on and off the stage frequently in this 60-minute performance, it could easily become confusing and chaotic. However, director Maureen Taggart adeptly sets the stage in an organized manner, eliminating any potential mishaps between scene changes.
The acting is carried out well, especially when the characters onstage have to freeze while a shorter skit is conducted off to the side.
A few lines were fumbled and there was a moment of awkwardness at the end when it appeared that there was a mistake with the lighting, but this is a lively performance that is sure to entertain.
Caryl Churchill wrote this play in the ‘70s and although some of the jokes might not be quite as accessible as they were back then, the ideas presented in The After-Dinner Joke are still applicable to today’s global climate.
Published in Volume 64, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 28, 2010)