Life After Bush
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
October 17, 2008
As we count down to Election Day 2008—just 14 days away, as I write these words, yet feeling agonizingly like an eon from now—it's nice to know that there's at least one respite for the anxious Obama supporter in town: a place where, for a couple of hours, you can sit among like-minded Hopers for Change and enjoy some smart satire along with some genuinely sunny celebration of the man who you fervently wish will become president. As much Democratic Pep Rally as sharp and biting expose of Bush, McCain, et al, Nero Fiddled's musical revue Life After Bush is warm-hearted, funny, eager, and smart.
McCain die-hards—and Bush die-hards, if there are any left—will probably disagree. But this is not parody that's meant to change minds, so I don't think many of them will be heading down to HERE Arts Center to see this show. (All you undecided voters out there, however, may want to take this in. Writer-directors Noah Diamond and Amanda Sisk have some cogent and useful points to make for you.)
Life After Bush is a parade of sketches and songs tracing the past twelve months or so of American political history. Most of what you expect to be covered turns up here: McCain, Palin, and Obama, of course, and also Hillary (the subject of an extended mini-musical, a dead-on parody of Evita, that is probably longer than it should be though it contains the finest writing of the evening); Rudy Giuliani (in a song about exploiting 9/11); Nancy Pelosi; sleazy TV pundits (satirized to perfection in a character called Dick Memmons, who runs a talk show called "Sucker Punch"); both of our potential future first ladies; and the eponymous 43rd President of the USA, portrayed here not only as the unfocused dim light bulb we're used to but also, oh so pointedly, as the lamest of lame ducks.
Other targets are not famous individuals but rather constructs and concepts. There's a song called "Al Qaeda in Iraq" performed Bob Fosse-style by a pair of dancing terrorists. And there's a terrific number called "Corporations Are People Too"; the lead-in to this goes something like this:
So the next time you’re walking down the street, and you see ExxonMobil or ChevronTexaco, take them by the hand and say hello. Take Diebold out for dinner; just don’t let Diebold figure out the tip. Why shouldn’t General Motors have the freedom to make campaign contributions? Isn’t Blackwater entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of billions in Iraq war contracts? Citigroup has two I’s too!
At their best, Diamond and Sisk dazzle with the fresh ways they present familiar figures of satire. For example, Obama is Superman here, more or less literally, while Cheney, not Palin, is the pit bull. A general explains the War in Iraq to his Commander-in-Chief with the aid of plastic toy soldiers. Joe Biden is Robin Hood.
The most hard-hitting segment is one titled "Abortionland," which riffs intelligently on the misleading label "pro-abortion" that's applied sometimes to people who are in fact pro-choice. It includes this speech by "Sarah Palin":
I have adamantly supported the pro-life cause since I first understood, as a child, the atrocity of abortion. I think about it always. Just recently I was outside my home, shooting a moose with an assault rifle, and I thought: We must never condone the killing of innocent life.
and then continues with a group of Sex-and-the-City-esque glamour girls swapping mindless happy talk about how much they loved getting abortions. Cutting stuff, this.
The evening is framed around a visit to a Country Doctor; it's a brilliant device and I don't want to give it away. But I will tell you that the rousing finale reminds us of exactly what we have to do on November 4th:
The American dream is casting a ballot,
A choice to consider, a button to push.
The American dream is hope after struggle.
The American dream is life after Bush.
Diamond and Sisk perform, in addition to their writing/directing duties; he's great as the Country Doctor and she's superb as Hillary and Sarah Palin. They are joined on stage by Brian Louis Hoffman, repeating his excellent Bush character from previous Nero Fiddled shows; Kim Moscaritolo, who plays her signature role of TV anchor Mopsy Jimenez-Tippington; Avi Phillips, funny as a wildly gesticulating and careening McCain; Sadrina Johnson, who sings divinely and makes a great Michelle Obama, among other characters; and Tarik Davis, who has got Barack Obama's mannerisms down to a T. Invaluably supporting the performers is accompanist David Hancock Turner.
As I said, if you're dead set against voting for Obama two weeks from now, I don't think anything in Life After Bush will convince you otherwise. But for the rest of us, the show offers a fun and unexpectedly moving shot in the arm to help us get through these final weeks of hopeful uncertainty.