Have you heard? Racism is bad, and illegal immigrants have as much right to be in this country as anyone else. That’s the agenda behind much of Alanna Ubach’s one-woman show “Patriotic Bitch,” and, to the predominantly lefty Gotham theater aud, it’s about as challenging as a hardline pro-kitten stance. Thankfully, easy politics aren’t the sum total of Ubach’s piece — three of her characters are remarkably well-observed and interesting, though they feel like part of a shorter, tighter, better play.
Just when you think you’re about to suffer insulin shock from prolonged exposure to Yolanda, Ubach’s decidedly non-bitchy, saintly-sweet, much-abused protagonist, along comes Jackie Queen, a fictional Fox News anchor lady who really, really needs colonic hydrotherapy and won’t calm down until she hears she’ll be getting some.
As nice as it is to see someone suggest that entitled bigots want for themselves what many of us also want for them, it’s hard to wish Jackie were any less mean. Yelling at fellow bar patrons and snarking away to invisible people on her hands-free cell phone like a particularly troubled schizophrenic, Jackie’s uncontrollable monologue is a hilarious study in acrimony, and it’s certainly Ubach’s finest moment here.
A close second is Jackie’s daughter, Angela, a spoiled cokehead so insensitive to the world around her that she doesn’t understand what’s happening to the third character worth mentioning, a Persian girl named Beta Karime.
Like Jackie, Angela is appalling, but in a significantly less funny way. Ubach gives wonderful texture to her thoughtless cruelty, using Angela’s obliviousness to insinuate all kinds of action happening around her without her knowledge.
If Ubach were to populate “Patriotic Bitch” entirely with self-involved characters like Jackie and Angela, she might have a much more compelling drama on her hands — both sections with the Queens involve some elegant theatrical workarounds, and the rest of the show could probably be amputated with little effort.
Unfortunately “the rest of the show” is where Ubach chooses to expend the lion’s share of her energy. She preens unbearably as the superhumanly virtuous Yolanda, and several of the play’s other caricatures (a lecherous lesbian boss; a closeted religious nut workout instructor; a sassy black woman who serves no discernible dramatic purpose) are both lazy and borderline offensive.
Best known as one of Reese Witherspoon’s sorority sisters in the “Legally Blonde” pics, Ubach seems to be shooting for a show about the range of the female experience in Los Angeles, where the play was first produced. But her weakness for the sentimental and the simple undercuts her aspirations.
She comes tantalizingly close, though: Persian femme Beta has a wonderful scene that suggests the infinite number of intersections in the big, multicultural city.
In the scene, Beta goes to confession so she can participate in Angela’s Catholic wedding, and finds herself talking about everything from pregnancy to life in Jeddah, always with a frank lack of self-pity that would be welcome elsewhere in the show. It’s a fine moment, and one that restores faith in the writer’s gifts, if not in the merits of “Patriotic Bitch” as a whole.