Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Stuff Happens"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey

Zeitgeist takes on the Administration

By Beverly Creasey

So why aren’t people outraged about Iraq? As the saying goes, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” I think attention pans must be spent and overwhelmed and there’s little to keep reminding us that we’ve killed over 100,000 Iraq citizens in order to save them from a ruthless dictator, not to mention the rising daily American body count. If there were a draft, every college campus in the US would be on fire. There’d be marching in the streets and coverage on the news. The Nightly News showed caskets coming home from Viet Nam but the media caved to the White House and we don’t see any wooden boxes this time. So here comes David Hare, bless him, trying his best to rile up – and wise up audiences about the war criminals on our side. STUFF HAPPENS is his docudrama with a timeline from Bush Sr. to “W,” outlining who did what and when.

The powerful Zeitgeist cast, directed with military precision by David Miller, portray all the characters we’ve become familiar with, alas, from Colin Powell to Dick Cheney to Tony Blair. Hare presents their political machinations in intricate detail (running 2 hours 35 minutes) reminiscent of the Watergate Hearings. Unfortunately there is no Senator Sam Erwin in this bunch. But there are the French (thank heavens) for a few laughs. The play crackles when Hare allows himself the luxury of speculation: at Powell’s humiliation when he’s shut out of war plans … or at Blair’s private outrage after Bush stabs him in the back … or British glee at a semantic victory over the French. My favorite scene is the “coercive diplomacy” powwow at the Hotel Pierre when Ambassador DeVillepin takes umbrage. Unfortunately the drama plods when we hear “stuff” we already know. (Is there anyone who doesn’t know about Cheney’s financial gain? If there is: Please, please go see Stuff Happens.)

Leading the Zeitgeist charge is Robert Bonotto as Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bonotto gives the PM class & depth – and he’s pretty sly, as well. Ben Lambert as DeVillepin is hilarious, wily, and noble, as the voice of reason. (Who would have thought the French would emerge as our moral compass?)

Speaking of morality, or a lack thereof, Peter Brown is marvelously snide as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. Harold Withee stutters and bumbles as guess who, and Cheryl Singleton plays Secretary of State Rice with disdain for everyone. Steven M. Key is a thoughtful, torn Colin Powell and James Bodge presides silently as the puppeteer pulling all the strings. Every member of the ensemble shines. Every fact is an outrage. So why isn’t there a wet eye in the house at the play’s end?

"Stuff Happens" (20 October - 11 November)
Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
1 (617) 482-3279

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide