The Ultimate Stimulus

Felipe Ossa (New York City)

May 30, 2014 at 9:39 am

Remember all those statistics we heard a few years back about the vast disparity in the distribution of wealth in our country — and how the worst area of all could be found in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine? There were lots of graphs and such, but the bottom line was that the gap is now so great that folks at the lower end can never catch up, regardless of how many incentives and programs the government throws at them.

Well, playwright Felipe Ossa suggests a “stimulus package” of a wholly different sort. Aptly named The Ultimate Stimulus, Ossa’s script outlines a radical idea: a program where the ultra-rich are assigned groups of concubines who eventually, through mentoring, tutelage and lots and lots of sex, find their way to economic happiness.

Ridiculous? Not according to Amanda McCloud, a one-woman advocate for an idea whose time she believes has come. Actress Tanya O’Debra as McCloud earnestly explains the logic of it all with the help of a slideshow of graphs, pictures and simple animation. The visuals, designed by Max Wolkowitz and Paul Belliveau, create much of the tongue-in-cheek humor in the play. There’s a priceless online dating parody for matching up the players. Stick-figure animation with unchanging faces imposed is very effective, as is the choice of pictures of the disadvantaged and notable people (Christy Walton, in particular).

O’Debra does a fine job of commanding the stage for more than 45 minutes and, as directed by Sara Wolkowitz, is oddly believable despite the absurd nature of the piece. Still, the play walks a fine line between being simply funny and trying to make a serious point. I found myself wanting the performance to push more in one direction or the other.

Regardless, there are plenty of laughs, particularly surrounding the expanding sex lives of the participants. Like much good satire, the material is sufficiently balanced such that the point of the play sneaks up on you. By the end, Ossa’s “stimulus program,” both economic and sexual, seems like a reasonable solution to the problem, no more absurd than what the government has offered. If the joke’s on us, at least we leave smiling.

THE ULTIMATE STIMULUS will be performed 7:15 p.m. May 31, 9 p.m. June 2, 9 p.m. June 4 and 8:45 p.m. June 6 at Art Academy Auditorium (1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine).