While watching Lee Blessing's mediocre A User's Guide to Hell Featuring Bernard Madoff, I found myself writing Caster's Rules of Satire.
Rule 1: A satire should be entertaining.
Rule 2: A satire should reveal new truths or present old truths in such a way that they feel new.
Rule 3: A satire should have the courage of its convictions and not cop out at the end.
Tenet 1: If a satire uses a character such as Mengele or Mohammed Atta for humor, the depiction had damned well better be funny.
Tenet 2: Arguments about God and religion must actually be interesting
Tenet 3: Blue-collar men with New York accents are not automatically entertaining
Tenet 4: Anal rape is not by definition a laugh riot and treating it as such is lazy writing.
So, anyway, Bernie Madoff (the serviceable Edward James Hyland) is in hell. His guide is Verge, a blue-collar New Yorker, played with little personality by David Deblinger. All the other characters are played by the excellent Eric Sutton and even better Erika Rose, the show's two redeeming features. The direction, by Michole Biancosino is uninteresting.
The program features a note from the playwright that begins, "Hell is funny." I don't know if that's true, but I do know that the version of hell depicted in A User's Guide to Hell Featuring Bernard Madoff is tedious.
(press ticket; 5th row)