Chicago Theater Review: TAPPED: A TREASONOUS MUSICAL COMEDY (Forth Story Productions at Theater Wit)

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by Lawrence Bommer on June 10, 2016

in Theater-Chicago


Half-baked, heavy-handed, overlong, poorly plotted, wretchedly sung, scenically sterile, contrived and clichéd, witless and mindless, and minus any production value(s), Tapped: A Treasonous Musical Comedy is not a good night at the theater. I’d say it should not be reviewed—but that might mean it could be seen–by theatergoers who will never go near a stage for years. Regretfully revisiting three utterly unredeemed and totally lost hours, here’s publicity that Forth Story Productions’ forgettable world premiere doesn’t deserve.

TAPPED 5 (Photo Credit-Evan Hanover. (L to R) Laureen Siciliano, Max Hinders)

Momentarily setting aside the wretched results, Forth Story’s damaged goods aim for the right target: Bookwriter Jed Levine, songwriter Brad Kemp, and director Molly Todd Madison mean to skewer the domestic espionage abuses of the National Security Administration, recently exposed by Edward Snowden, and the anti-terror overreaching of the FBI and CIA. There is, it seems, no intelligence in “intelligence.”

Tapped (for the audience it’s “Trapped”) clumsily chronicles a clueless NSA spy named Mary who wises up to her agency’s pointless invasions of Americans’ privacy, notably in the demonization of an Iraqi immigrant family in New Jersey. All too predictably, Mary joins forces—and falls in love—with a preternaturally naïve, moronically klutzy whistleblower named Steve. As Mary is hounded by her venal boss, a paranoid security chief named Patrick (who identifies with Kiefer Sutherland in 24), Steve is stalked by a horny harridan named Juliana, head of WikiLeaks.

TAPPED 2 (Photo Credit-Evan Hanover; (L to R) David Dritsas, Brittny Congleton, Laureen Siciliano, Max Hinders, Jenna Steege)

Despite the warnings of her chum and colleague Lisa, Mary, whose idol is Sandra Bullock, runs off with Steve to Lithuania because it must have seemed funny at the time. Her passport canceled, Mary gets stuck for many months in the Moscow airport. After breaking up with “stupid Steve” (as he correctly calls himself), Mary is “rescued” by Lisa and forced to recant her apostasy against the NRA. But better instincts prevail and she reunites with Steve to return to him the flash drive that will expose and perhaps destroy our out-of-control spymasters.

The spoofery is well-intended, like the second act’s mockery of cable news feeding frenzies. But the means behind the mediocrity defeat every end. Levine and Kemp prosecute their parody by relying on thuddingly obvious stereotypes, lyrics that don’t scan, forgettable tunes, and groaner jokes. (The first act ends with a boneheaded anthem called “Scared Shitless,” the second act with the very appropriate “Fail Big.”)

TAPPED 3 (Photo Credit-Evan Hanover; (L to R) Laureen Siciliano, Brittny Congleton)

But even worse than the method—and the gratuitous length–is the content: For all their supposed defiance of imbecilic male authorities, the women are offensively depicted as sluts, dominatrixes, airheads, and patsies. The humor is obsessed with or reduced to big boobs, body odor, stalking, kitten killing, and body shaming. There’s no set to speak of or look at, just a bare wall and rolling props that create endless scene changes. The six-part band is okay, especially when they drown out songs like “Swiss Bitch.”

The bottom line is that the excesses of the NSA deserve a comeuppance that’s not lamentably lame, dumbed down and trivialized into a sub-sitcom. Guantanamo has torture but Theater Wit has Tapped, the theatrical version of waterboarding. Because all sixteen members of the ensemble have simultaneously reached the nadir of their careers, no names will be mentioned.

TAPPED 1(Photo Credit-Evan Hanover; (L to R) David Dritsas, Brittny Congleton, Laureen Siciliano, Max Hinders, Jenna Steege)

publicity photos by Evan Hanover

TAPPED Cast Announcement

Tapped: A Treasonous Musical Comedy
Forth Story Productions
Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont Ave
Thurs-Sat at 7:30; Sun at 2
ends on July 3, 2016
for tickets, call 773.975.8150 or visit Tapped


Kathleen Siciliano June 12, 2016 at 11:15 pm

FYI: I saw it and LOVED it! No kidding, I am seeing it a second time in a few weeks. I thought it was creative and energetic. I loved the songs. It is better than some of the sitcoms on TV! People like different things. I hope this review doesn’t stop anyone from coming to see the show.

Jason Rohrer June 21, 2016 at 6:04 am

“It is better than some of the sitcoms on TV!”

Is that the bar?

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