nytheatre.com review by Anthony Pennino
August 15, 2004
The Curan Repertory Company is presenting Dementia Presidentia by Jules Tasca at this year’s FringeNYC Festival. The play looks to satirize our current Chief Executive’s obsession with bringing his religious beliefs into the political sphere. Though the subject is rife with comic possibilities, Dementia Presidentia widely misses the mark.
For those familiar with the films that have spun-off from Saturday Night Live skits, the flaws of this play will become readily apparent. What could have been an amusing skit for five minutes has been dragged into a 90-minute-long one-joke story. Tasca liberally peppers his play with jokes and one-liners that, for the most part, fall flat. The playwright seems to be aiming to create his own Dr. Strangelove for the George W. Bush years, but his piece lacks that earlier work’s wit, keen satirical eye, structure, and, most importantly, growing sense of dread.
Dementia Presidentia follows President Arnold Bosch (a talented Tom Walker struggles with a poorly constructed part) who has gone crazy and believes he is the chosen of God. He aims nuclear missiles at every city in the world—including those on U.S. soil—because, well, that is where terrorists might be. His staff work quietly to get him committed without tipping off the electorate to his mental state during an election year. Though Tasca has named this president Arnold Bosch, the character bears no resemblance—real or satirical—to either the current President or Governor of California.
The direction by Ken Terrell does not help matters. The cast is under-rehearsed, the staging is static, the comic timing is off, and the sound cues are awkward and poorly thought out.
Not all is lost, however. President Bosch dreams that he has encounters with Jesus of Nazareth (Max Demers) in a heavenly cafeteria. Here, Tasca’s satire has some bite, and the writing is tight. In these scenes, Walker’s comic talents can truly shine, and he has an admirable foil in Demers’s frat-boy Jesus. Also worthy of mention are Jeremy Goren and Kathleen Ferman as the Vice President and his wife, respectively.