MADISON, Wis., July 14, 2013 — There is never a shortage of entertaining scandals and mishaps that reveal the inherent buffoonery of Washington politics. One only needs to watch a few minutes of CNN for a good chuckle (and a despairing sigh). Political culture lampoons itself. It needs no help.
But just in case Washington doesn’t exude enough organic hilarity, a new online web series can fill in the gap. Cap South, created and directed by filmmaker Rob Raffety, follows a Congressional staff as they make their way through numerous political and personal predicaments.
Cap South is a masterful critique of Washington politics, demonstrating both how political crises are engendered by the very individuals who pretend to be able to fix them and how idealistic youngsters get caught up in the futile bustle of the capital city.
In three short episodes (each is six to 10 minutes long) so far, Raffety has introduced several engaging plots. No storyline has more potential or as much “realness,” however, as the budding romance between Elliot Clarice and his newest staffer, Nicole Foster.
As the chief of staff for recently-appointed Congresswoman Gracie Todd Englewright, Elliot Clarice finds himself struggling to keep a sinking ship afloat. Much of Clarice’s staff jettisoned following the death of Gracie’s husband, the representative who she replaced. Forced to maintain some semblance of order while also coaching the politically clueless congresswoman, Clarice hires a new legislative fellow. Witty, red-haired, and Australian, Nicole Foster quickly becomes more than just another employee.
Andrew Heaton (Clarice) and Naomi Brockwell (Foster) possess a palpable on-screen chemistry, which comes as no surprise considering they operate a production company together. Balancing awkward glances, clever banter, and affectionate body language, the pair successfully creates a believable and endearing office romance.
The most memorable moments of the series come from Bushwick, a clandestine yet paradoxically recognizable political “fixer.” Portrayed by playwright Robert Michael Oliver with a peculiar panache reminiscent of both John Malkovich and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bushwick is loud, eccentric, and unpredictable.
Attention-worthy is the acting of John Crowley as staffer Larry Csonka. One can safely assume that Crowley’s portrayal of his Cap South character is based on both his own disposition and the antics of his fellow classmates he endured while at Miami University. Crowley’s impeccable comedic timing elevates a dull stock character to a riotously funny gag reel.
While many of the actors in Cap South are professional entertainers, there are a few exceptions. Cathy Reisenwitz, who plays Kate Gillespie, a “quiet, reflective, skeptical” junior legislative correspondent, is a libertarian blogger, social journalist, and former digital publishing specialist at Reason. Writing regularly for Thoughts on Liberty and her own site, Sex and the State, Reisenwitz successfully communicates the inter-connected ideas of power, government, and personal relationships.
Appearing in a guest spot as an interviewee in Epsiode 2, Igor Gembitsky is the manager of online education at the Institute for Humane Studies, a libertarian non-profit affiliate of George Mason University. IHS seeks to promote “peace, prosperity and social harmony from a greater understanding of human affairs.”
When he is not busy accumulating such accolades as “NYC’s Greatest New Comedian, 2013,” Andrew Heaton is also a libertarian political writer and satirist. His work is regularly featured in The Freeman, Reason, and Cloture Club.
Finally and most notably, Cap South’s creator Rob Raffety is an adjunct professor of law and public administration at George Mason University and the manager of research for the university’s Mercatus Center, a bastion of free market thought and education.
Libertarians love to poke fun at the ineptitude and inefficiency of electoral politics, but in doing so they often come across as uncharismatic and academic. A much better way to reach out to people is through entertainment, as evidenced by the smashing success of the Keynes-Hayek rap videos of two years ago.
Cap South’s libertarianism is not overt; rather, it is subtly suggested. By portraying a congressional office as exactly what it is — dysfunctional — Cap South dishes out a healthy dose of cynicism regarding our political system. And while not libertarianism per se, that cynicism paves the way for accepters of the conventional Washington dialogue to seek out alternatives. Cap South has the potential to dismantle many predispositions of its audience.
For anyone interested in having his or her predispositions dismantled (and enjoying a few laughs in the process), Cap South is a welcome summer respite to real-life Washington absurdity.
Joseph S. Diedrich also writes for the MacIver Institute, The College Fix, Young Americans for Liberty, Conbustible, LibertyBlog.org, Young American Revolution, and Musings of a Superfluous Young Man. Find him on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter @JSDiedrich.
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