- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 3, 2001

At first glance, the cactuses in front of the White House might give you pause. But that will be before you realize that in a Hexagon performance, anything goes.

Few high-profile politicians are safe from the prick of a production that lampoons public figures from President Bush to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat and former first lady.

Hexagon, that intrepid troupe of volunteers that includes lawyers, teachers and stay-at-home moms, is at it again. This season's show, "A Stateless Odd D.C.," takes firm but gentle pokes, with jokes ripped from today's headlines.

Take the opening, based on the presidential election turmoil in Florida. Hexagon targets nearly everyone involved, from Cuban exiles in Miami, to Palm Beach voters, to the Florida Supreme Court.

"It's really a wonderful opening," says Darrell Capwell, president of Hexagon. "You sort of get the story told from different perspectives."

At the scene's end, Ralph Nader — the unsuccessful Green Party presidential candidate — appears.

The show, which opens this weekend at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Georgetown, offers inside the Beltway humor, with an emphasis on fun.

Mr. Capwell says Hexagon producers come up with the title for a show before getting together any material. This year's title, "Hexagon 2001, A Stateless Odd D.C.," is a play on the novel and movie title "2001: A Space Odyssey."

"Actually, the title and the skits are not really too related," Mr. Capwell says with a chuckle. "Most of the writing is done between September and December, and the writers and producers just look for things that will still be topical in March."

With so much going on in the political scene, Hexagon's writers — all volunteers — have a pretty wide latitude for expression, Mr. Capwell says.

Of course, Hexagon is nonpartisan. That means that Democrats are in for just as much ribbing as Republicans.

Mrs. Clinton, for example, leads Hexagon's famous kick line this year in a number titled "Six More Years." Another, "Heirhead to the Throne," features former Vice President Dan Quayle whispering in President Bush's ear.

Politicians are not the only ones who come in for their share of barbs. Doyenne of taste and style Martha Stewart took a drubbing in a previous show. Every show offers a number about Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Mr. Capwell says. One skit in the current production also features Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

"I really can't tell you anything more than that," Mr. Capwell says. "I don't want to give anything away."

All net proceeds from Hexagon productions go to charity. That's why such local media personalities as meteorologist Bob Ryan and reporter I.J. Hudson of WRC-TV and such politicos as Maryland Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, share the stage with the cast.

But they should not expect that Hexagon will go lightly on them.

"We've got a number this year called 'Deadlock,' " Mr. Capwell says gleefully. "We'll probably use some of them in that."

Special features called "newsbreaks" with local celebrities and media personalities have been part of Hexagon shows for a long time. This year's guests, in addition to Mr. Ryan and Mr. Hudson, include WJLA-TV anchor Maureen Bunyan, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and WTOP radio's "Man About Town" Bob Madigan.

Since its inception in 1955, Hexagon has donated nearly $3 million to local charities, including the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, D.C. Habitat for Humanity and the Lab School of Washington.

This year's recipient is Food & Friends, a local nonprofit organization founded in 1988 to provide meals to homebound patients with AIDS and HIV and which expanded this year to include anyone with a life-threatening disease.

"This is a new charitable source for us," says Food & Friends Executive Director Craig M. Shniderman. He plans to use the proceeds from this year's Hexagon show, expected to be in the $95,000 to $100,000 range, to help fulfill his organization's expanded commitment.

"We now serve 16 different menus each day," Mr. Shniderman says. "Full-time nutritionists work with each patient to ensure that diet addresses their individual medical condition."

Food & Friends was chosen after a competitive application process that included meetings with Hexagon's board of directors.

For its part, Food & Friends helps Hexagon by providing food and snacks for cast and crew members during rehearsals and the show's run. Volunteers from Food & Friends also help sell tickets through mailings and at the box office.

A gala benefit for Food & Friends, "Chef's Best," will be held March 18 at the Georgetown Seafood Grill. Chefs from several area restaurants will participate. Tickets cost $100. Call 202/863-1837 for more information.

Along with the restaurant community, other local business support Hexagon's endeavor through in-kind donations and other services.

But the backbone of the Hexagon show is its core of devoted volunteers. Membership in Hexagon — about 360 — is open to anyone.

"Very few people have theatrical experience, other than community theater," Mr. Capwell says. "But what we end up with is something really special."

"It's just a wonderful group," says Sue Edwards, a member of the famous women's kick line, which closes the first act. "It's lovely to be doing something you enjoy while at the same time helping others."

From May to October, a smaller touring group called the Hexagoners performs snippets from past shows for groups and organizations in the Washington area. Hexagoners perform for a mutually agreed upon fee as part of an organization's fund-raising activities.

WHAT: "Hexagon 2001: A Stateless Odd D.C."WHERE: Duke Ellington School of the Arts, 35th Street and Reservoir Road NWWHEN: 8 p.m. March 3 and 2:30 p.m. March 4; 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through March 24TICKETS: $20PHONE: 202/333-SHOW or www.hexagon.org

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