It seems so far-fetched it's laughable: Sick of an authoritarian Republican government, thousands of liberal Americans flee to Canada, land of socialized healthcare and same-sex marriage. But in Democrats Abroad, writer-performer Chris Earle's surprisingly powerful solo show from Canada, this scenario slowly becomes more plausible — and much more frightening.
Set in the not-so-distant future, Democrats Abroad is narrated by Greg, a broad-minded Toronto actor. In the wake of another war in the Middle East and the election of another Republican president, Canadian cities are being flooded by expatriate Americans, or "displaced Democrats." Robert De Niro moves to Montreal, Susan Sarandon relocates to Vancouver, and every major Canadian city gets at least one Baldwin brother. At first Canada welcomes these refugees with open arms — even Greg, who quickly hooks up with Angela, a displaced New Yorker. But things turn ugly when American refugees are rounded up for deportation.
Delivered in a breezy tone by Earle as he jumps in and out of narration and shifts from character to character, Democrats Abroad is a story of safety and trust. Though he doesn't experiment with the traditional one-man-show format — and risks the pitfalls that can accompany it — Earle works well within the genre, creating an intimate theatrical experience. Peppered with humor, the show has a light touch, such as when Earle compares Canada to a minivan: It may not be sexy, "but it's safe and there's room for everyone." This use of comedy is precisely what makes the show so sneakily powerful. When, under the Republican regime, liberal filmmaker Michael Moore disappears, it's laughable. When American citizens begin to disappear for signing online petitions, it's chilling.
But through it all, Democrats Abroad provides a unique perspective on the American experience, reaffirming our perpetual optimism. It simply took an outsider to point it out.
Presented by the Night Kitchen as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the Henry Street Settlement's Recital Hall, 466 Grand St., NYC. Aug. 16-24. Remaining performances: Tue., Aug. 22, 6 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 23, 9:30 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 24, 10 p.m. (212) 279-4488 or www.fringenyc.org.