The University of Rhode Island's first production of the year is "Stuff Happens" by David Hare, written in response to the Iraq War. Hare describes his show as "a history play" that deals with recent history. The title is from Donald Rumsfeld's response to widespread looting in Baghdad on April 11, 2003: "Stuff happens and it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." The play presents a mix of viewpoints, including arguments for and against the attack on Iraq, mixing verbatim re-creations of real speeches, meetings and press conferences and fictionalized versions of private meetings between members of the Bush and Blair administrations, and international figures such as Hans Blix and Dominique de Villepin. An ensemble cast of 26 plays over 40 roles during this show. This dark comedy is well directed by Christian Wittwer who uses news reel footage of the actual historical figures to introduce the actors who will be playing them and the 26 performers do an outstanding acting job while doing so..
The play shows the tangled diplomatic maneuvers leading up to the war and hints that Bush and his top advisers intended to invade Iraq even before the September 11 attacks. Playwright David Hare says "I describe it as a play about how a supposedly stupid man, George W. Bush, gets everything he wants -- and a supposedly clever man, Tony Blair, ends up with nothing he wants". Hare makes Bush, a buffoon who spouts his born again Christian mantra over and over again by proclaiming that God told him to do certain things. The role of Bush is a humorous one while the audience sees through his facade of being a war monger with its more serious implications. Leading this huge cast is Tyler Fischer as President Bush. He is fantastic in this role and his impersonation is right on the money. Tyler's portrayal of this pompous ass is hilarious and he keeps the show from sinking into an overly dramatic abyss. Kevin Broccoli is dynamic as Tony Blair. His British accent is flawless. One of the most sympathetic characters in the show is Colin Powell who is played by Benjamin A. Gracia. He infuses Powell with the fiery spirit needed and commands many scenes throughout the show. The mean spirited duo of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are wonderfully portrayed by Ben Rose and Nevan Richard. They bring these two men to life even though neither one of them resembles their counterparts in real life. Nile Hawver portrays Paul Wolfowitz who wanted Bush to go to war with his hawkish behavior while Ama Appiah plays Condoleezza Rice who Hare portrays as playing both sides of the fence with his line that she has one mirror in front and other one in back. Two other performers who handle their parts with German and French accents are Cory Crew as Hans Blix, the German weapons inspector and Jamie Dufault as the French diplomat, de Villepin. The end of Act 1 ends with a two stepping dance to show how Bush and his cronies side stepped the United Nations to get their war in Iraq. So for a chance to see some powerful performances by college students in a timely play, be sure to catch "Stuff Happens" at URI.