Under current U.S. law, the government may issue green cards to family members of citizens, those with permanent employment in the U.S., and those who win a place in the diversity lottery. There are also dispensations for battered women and physicians willing to practice in underserved areas but nothing on the books guaranteeing green cards to attractive foreign nationals willing to spoon junior State Department officials. Nevertheless, in James Armstrong’s foreign-affairs farce Foggy Bottom, the unscrupulous Dick Ross has obtained a green card and will bestow it on the most kissable immigrant. He finds himself in a political pickle when three candidates, Chinese Lee, Colombian Juanita, and Nigerian Sadiku, all arrive at his office on the same evening.
Each woman has a legitimate reason for seeking residence in the United States (rebels, rapine, machetes), but Dick (Dan Cordle) doesn’t display much interest. When Lee (Jo Mei) confesses, “They left my brother’s body to rot on the side of the road,” Dick responds, “I think I’ll have a drink!” Playwright Armstrong demonstrates similar insensitivity. An equal-opportunity offender, he’s content to bestow national character via a few stereotypes, outré costumes, and the mangling of consonants— appropriate for farce, but squirm inducing. The actors seem only intermittently assured with the material, not altogether sure how to approach the script’s jaunty egregiousness, which includes lines such as “So I stuffed an Asian woman in the closet, so what!” Indeed, Jeremy Beiler offers the most convincing performance as audience stand-in Bill, a bow-tied colleague flummoxed by Dick’s shenanigans. Director Rob Urbinati sometimes adorns the action with jokey light and sound cues, sometimes leaves it alone.
The comedy and the performers gain confidence in the second act, when a surprise event ensures conflict over issues more substantive than which émigré sports the sexiest teddy. Soon closet doors slam and partners switch with antic abandon, all but eliding the more serious content that Armstrong has introduced. The playwright has concerns to voice about the role of the State Department and America’s puffed-up position in the world, but they’re smothered by several saucy gestures with a plunger and mop. Perhaps Armstrong means to implicate the audience as well, to show how we, too, prefer frippery to informed discourse. Dick may not be the only one who’d rather have a drink than discuss bodies on the side of the road.