By Kelly Luck
In 1789, James Madison, in response to Anti-Federalist grumblings about centralization of federal power in the constitution, drafted and presented a series of amendments with an eye toward spelling out fundamental rights and limiting federal power. “The Foreplay” takes a decidedly cockeyed look at that process, taking us from one amendment to the next in a blitzkrieg of law, morality, catty insults, bad jokes, and Thomas Jefferson generally being a pain in the neck.
In the play, Madison, Jefferson and George Mason (whose Virginia Declaration of Rights was a strong influence on the bill) get together to knock out the first ten amendments to the constitution before the pubs shut. The result is rowdy from start to finish, a sloppy, ad-hoc group of motley characters trying to fashion a system of government that will stand the test of time. And if they can keep from strangling each other in the process, all the better.
“Foreplay” is a high-energy show from beginning to end, with humor that regularly hits pretty close to the knuckle. No pretence is made toward realism, of course, but it is consistently amusing and moves forward at a good pace. It does rely a bit heavily on ironic foreshadowing (“fortunately, such-and-such will never be a problem”) style jokes, but overall the material is solidly funny.