All of us except Malcolm, who is too young, went to one of Philadelphia’s best kept secrets on Friday night - this annual show.  Think of it as the University of Pennsylvania’s answer to Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Club, except that Mask & Wig puts on a hilarious show each year, also involving drag, instead of giving a pudding pot parade to some fading celebrity.

My friend Anne, whose husband is a Man of Pennsylvania, as the song goes, told us about Mask & Wig during a long-ago book club meeting.  And Chris and I have been hooked ever since.  Thank you, A&J!

It’s amazing to me that each year, a group of undergraduates can write, edit, rehearse, and stage such a brilliantly witty, technically sophisticated, amusingly choreographed production while also excelling at their Ivy League studies.  Actually, I can’t imagine that the second part really happens. 

“Oh, The Humanities or:  There’s Something About Mona” pits Leonardo Da Vinci and Michaelangelo against each other for the attentions of Mona Lisa.  The diabolical but bumbling Machiavelli manipulates them both as they compete to win the “Renaissance Man of the Year Award, Sponsored by the Medicis.”

Ian appreciated all the painterly brush-and-linseed-oil jokes and Hugh, now studying ancient Rome in his Western Civ class, also got the references.   The mood was bawdy and rowdy, with hundreds of tippling Penn students hooting loudly at the actors.  Shakespeare would’ve felt at home.  Actually, he had a role in the cast too.

If you live in Philadelphia and have never been to Mask & Wig, you have no idea what you’re missing.  And if your kids are old enough to go, take them (our rule:  9th grade is the threshold).  Because there’s nothing like laughing together with your children at grown-up humor.  It’s a great landmark in the parenting journey, and begins to make up for all those hours you spent shepherding them to slow-as-molasses children’s productions of Winnie the Pooh and Snow White.  Think of it as your pay-off.


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