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I went to see this at the NT last night. The reviewers of this play seem to be mostly on crack. I mean, they agree it was heavy-handed, and generally not great, but ... in The Times:
But the excitement of Pizarro’s arrival in Peru in Act I, followed by his capture of Atahuallpa, isn’t matched by the more intellectual excitement that Act II is meant to bring.
Anyone else think that Act I was better than Act II rather than, say, an orgy of bombastic excess? No, didn't think so. And in The Independent:
Also, thank heavens, Joseph is wonderfully canny, warm and vibrant as Atahuallpa. Theatrically, if not politically, he nearly saves the day.
Beg pardon? Is this the same Atahuallpa who was speaking in an embarrassing pidgin-English screech the whole time?
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I command people in New York to go and see this and report back:
"Dog Sees God" -- which follows the travails of "CB", America's most hapless cartoon character, all grown up -- was one of the breakout hits of the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival, winning the Excellence Award for Best Overall Production, as well as Theatermania's Best Play Award of 2004, and the GLAAD Media Award for Best Off-Off-Broadway production.

In this "unauthorized parody", CB's beloved beagle has terminal rabies, and his world is inhabited by a comic strip parade of misfits: a missing pen pal, an abused pianist, a pyromaniac ex-girlfriend, two drunk cheerleaders, a homophobic quaterback, a burnt-out Buddhist and a drama-queen sister. Together, these factors all contribute -- Good grief! -- to this modern tale of teenage angst.


The talented cast of young actors joining [Eddie Kaye Thomas] include ELIZA DUSHKU ("Bring it On", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), AMERICA FERRERA ("Real Women Have Curves", "Lords of Dogtown"), KELLI GARNER ("The Aviator", "Bully" and "Love Liza"), ARI GRAYNOR ("Mystic River", "The Sopranos"), LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN ("The O.C.", "The Distance From Here", "Swimming in the Shallows"), KEITH NOBBS ("Phone Booth", "Fuddy Meers"), IAN SOMERHALDER ("Lost", "Rules of Atraction")
This sounds like it'll be up there with 'Smite the Heathens, Charlie Brown' and 'The Great Old Pumpkin.' I'm assuming Dushku is playing Lucy. Right?

(Also, most of the teenage-equivalents are obvious, but who's the homophobic quaterback?)
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David Hare's latest play is about the process leading to the invasion of Iraq. It's also a docu-drama for the stage. 'Nothing in the narrative,' the programme declares, 'is knowingly untrue'. That's not to say there's no fiction in it--the play mixes verbatim dialogue from speeches and press conferences with dramatisations of events that, though they may be known to have happened, nevertheless happened behind closed doors.

Watching it is an interesting experience. Some people, no doubt, have carried a detailed knowledge of the international politics of the last four years in their heads the whole way; most of us, I suspect, have not. We forget things, or miss things. So, despite the fact that Stuff Happens contains nothing new, it's still instructive to see the events that led to the invasion of Iraq all laid out as one narrative. It's a simplification, inevitably, but it's not simplistic, and that's not a meaningless distinction--if some details are left out, the whole sill conveys a convincing impression of the intracacies, interconnectedness and inertia of global diplomacy.

It's also fascinating to watch on a technical level. Most of the cast is present on the Olivier's round stage for most of the length of the play, Two or three or six or a dozen of them will step forward for any given scene; the rest will watch silently, seated on chairs around the stage edge or standing to imitate a White House press pack. You barely notice scene changes, and the story moves forward without pause, jumping from Bush to Blair to Blix and back again with remarkable agility. Often one actor will step forward and provide framing narration, dates and places and general context for the remarks we're about to hear. Many of the performances capture the tics of their real-life counterparts with impressive accuracy. Jack Straw's thankless job of being wheeled out to explain Donald Rumsfeld's remarks, for instance, steals more than one scene (and it's remarkably freeing to be given license to laugh at the more absurd moments, in a way that you can't let yourself do on a day-to-day basis).

The play does not try to convince sceptics of either political stripe of their wrongheadedness. If you are anti-war, the breathtaking aggressiveness of Paul Wolfowitz will probably horrify you as much as it does in real life; if you are pro-war, Cheney and Rumsfeld's arguments for the protection of America and American values will probably still convince you. Almost everyone comes out looking as bad as everyone else--the French, for instance, having the undoubted moral high ground, arrogantly waste it by playing for too much, too clumsily.

The flipside of this is that only once or twice do we see something approaching characterisation, as opposed to representation. It's there most notably in Colin Powell, whose desperate, frustrated, futile attempts to avert war--not knowing that the highest levels of his administration have decided it's inevitable--are genuinely sympathetic. Bush, by contrast, is little more than the caricature of popular culture, and the play's take on Blair is less critical than some might hope. In public it's the story we know; in private he doesn't doubt the rightness of the ends, but is frustrated with the way the means are panning out in a way that Bush just isn't. One is left with the impression that his major error, from which all other errors flowed, was (and is) a dogmatic committment to supporting US policy.

I doubt very strongly that this is a play for the ages; but as a product of this time, our time, it's an involving document, and worth seeing if you can.

The Guardian has interesting commentary here and here.

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