50-year-old comedy troupe satirizes political life

By day, Kay Casstevens goes about the weighty task of being Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) chief of staff. By night, her life assumes a drastically different form, as she whips out her tap shoes and choreographs dance numbers for the big show.
Courtesy of Hexagon
The comedy troupe Hexagon celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.


That big show is Hexagon, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and opens tomorrow night at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

Hexagon, which donates a portion of its proceeds to charity, does not have the edge of “Saturday Night Live,” but it shares some of its format. The local comedy troupe’s 60-member cast actually cares about the feelings of the political personalities it torments each year. But in its 50th year of production, it seems to have all the elements of the NBC show — satirical sketches, news breaks and depictions of political personalities that are not always flattering.

This year’s show promises to have elements that are fun to laugh at — skits pertaining to the Bush twins and the “scary liberal agenda” and a sketch called “Desperate House Husbands,” a spoof on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” that details the lives of househusbands who have gone wimpy, said Skip Maraney, also a Hexagon actor. Another skit: Republicans who fall in lockstep with their leaders.

The show runs for 17 performances, complete with Congress Night tomorrow, in which several lawmakers — Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), who is known for his impressions, and Reps. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), Van Hollen, Joe Barton (R-Texas), Tom Davis (R-Va.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) — are scheduled to perform with the cast.

Casstevens is part of the “kick,” an all-female chorus line that always ends the first act of the show. The women dress up in costumes that show off their legs, Casstevens said. Their ages range from early 20s to 50s.

Previously, Casstevens worked for former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, and for Vice President Al Gore as director of legislative affairs. She called the show a “labor of love,” as the cast reaps no salary for participating.

Casstevens said the show is sensitive to the personalities it satirizes, but added that it doesn’t lack spunk.

“No one ever wants to hurt anyone’s feelings, but everything’s pretty much out there,” she explained, citing skits from past years that included everything from Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp and the blue dress, to Saddam Hussein, to the aides who lost their jobs when Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) fell from his post as Senate majority leader.

Jennifer Strand, a producer of this year’s show, is also in the “kick.” She said the show’s actors come from all walks of life — they are nurses, teachers, government workers, Hill staffers and lawyers. Strand resigned from an administrative position at PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2000 and enjoys spending her time working in community theater.

She began doing the show in the early 1970s, and recalls when former House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) performed in Hexagon’s Congress Night. She also remembers a skit about former Attorney General Janet Reno, who was impersonated by a really tall woman, unlike the “Saturday Night Live” skits in which she had been played by men.

One night, Strand said, Reno showed up at the performance. Seeing that the skit wasn’t too awful, Reno took it in stride. “We certainly don’t do character assassination,” Strand said.

Maraney, who is playing Ronald Reagan, among other characters, in this year’s production, first performed in the show in 1964. By day, he manages an association of mail carriers. He has taken part in several performances since and has been Hexagon’s president, head of public relations and vice president for charity.

How hard-edged will this year’s show be?

“Well, it’s satire,” said Maraney, who worked as an administrative assistant for the Clerk of the House for 17 years. “We’re laughing at everybody, taking potshots at everybody.”

For more information and to obtain reservations, call the Hexagon box office at (202) 333-SHOW. Tomorrow is Congress Night; a reception will be held in the lobby at 7 p.m.