KPBS AIRDATE: November 10, 2006
The midterm elections may be over, but the fetid scent of politics still hangs heavy in the air. The perfect antidote? A political night at the theater. Right now, there are two politically-oriented shows in town. Here’s your big opportunity, if you want to get out all your ire and irritation, or vent your frustration, rage or joy. Both productions are bipartisan and interactive. It all depends whether you take your politics straight up or with a comic twist.
On the droll side of the aisle, there’s “Son of a Bush,” presented by the decades-old Washington D.C.-based two-person troupe called Gross National Product. Using sketch comedy and song, they go after Halliburton, Al Jazeera, Kim Jong Il and Big Oil and of course, the President and his opponents. GNP founder John Simmons looks and acts more like Bush than the man himself, nailing every mannerism and speechism (including espousing a philosophy of “compassionism” in “a kinder, gentile nation”). Christine Thompson is amusing as a perky, “God, I love to hear myself talk” Hillary, but she’s even better with her antic physical comedy and drop-dead-funny miming of the endless, deadly catalogue of drug side-effects. Not all the potshots hit their mark, but enough that you feel entertained, if not enlightened or inspired. The audience questions during the Bush–Clinton town hall meeting were generally quite serious, though they elicited some pretty witty responses.
But talk about serious! It doesn’t get any more staid and somber than “A Patriot Act: The Trial of George W. Bush.” Written, conceived, directed by and featuring local interactive theater-maven Todd Blakesley, the show is a full-on courtroom tribunal. No detail has been left untapped, from the I.D. badges to the security checks, the graphs and projections to the heaps of history and data. Kinda like “Fahrenheit 911” meets jury duty, without zhlubby Michael Moore for comic relief. But the audience is up to the task and equally earnest, at least they were on opening night, election eve. Folks were more than willing to step up to voice their concerns and opinions; some were spontaneous, others pre-arranged. The attorneys, magistrates and key witnesses play their parts to the hilt. And the volunteer jurors, three sets of them, deliberate with gravity and intensity, to determine if the President is guilty of treason, war crimes and/or dereliction of duty. They render decisions and recommend punishment. It’s a rather protracted evening, filled with facts and figures, and only a few welcome moments of passion and contention. A little humor or respite would go a long way. “A Patriot Act” is an intriguing exercise in lawful democracy, But is it theater? On that count, the jury is still out.
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.