All the ingredients were there at Dolores Park on the Fourth of July: radicalized crowds, hot sun, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence offering an ersatz convocation — and, for the 48th year, the San Francisco Mime Troupe opening its latest original, leftist, musical political satire.
"Making a Killing" is one of the troupe’s best, textually: Written by Michael Gene Sullivan with Jon Brooks, it’s a tightly plotted military "murder-most-foul" mystery, smoothly limned by the usual suspects in multiple roles, most of them longtime members of the troupe.
And though you probably won’t go out humming this year’s not-especially memorable musical numbers (score by Pat Moran, who also performs some small roles and plays in the three-person "Army band"; lyrics by Moran, additional lyrics by Velina Brown), this spot-on, witty critique of American government propaganda about the Iraq war certainly compensates.
The action plays out on the troupe’s portable stage with compact side closets for characters to pop out of (design by Jon Wai-Keung Lowe).
In the military-trial framing device, a histrionic prosecutor (Lisa Hori-Garcia) sets out to prove that Cpl. Jones (Victor Toman) — a newspaper reporter assigned to write a puff piece about the American-built hospital for children in a cancer-cluster Iraqi village — murdered idealistic new recruit and co-reporter Cpl. Johnson (Kevin Rolston).
A blustering Col. Randolph (Sullivan) is the main witness. Interwoven flashbacks reveal the true story: Jones and Johnson are, in fact, gay lovers. Jones, terrified of being sent by the Army into Sadr City as punishment for investigative reporting, has lost his journalistic nerve, much to Johnson’s dismay.
The building of a new, way-too-small children’s hospital is a cynical ploy by an absurdly evil Dick Cheney (Ed Holmes’ hilarious, patented impression of the smirking V.P.) to regain popularity and one-up his nemesis, an equally conniving Condi Rice (Brown) who, in one of the show’s funniest bits, continually zaps Cheney in and out of consciousness with a remote-control device. The cluster of cancer-stricken children turns out to be caused by ... well, if you’ve kept up with the real news, you already know.
As amusing and pointed as the show is, it also has at least one genuinely touching moment: a heartfelt speech by a female Iraqi reporter (Hori-Garcia), disguised as a man, explaining to her two American counterparts the plight of her people.
With tight, brisk direction by Ellen Callas and Sullivan, "Making a Killing" is a timely and smartly observed addition to the S.F. Mime Troupe’s considerable repertory.