Directed by Dale McFadden
Through Nov. 18
Stuff Happens feels like a history class taught by a professor who enjoys tangential information: The play starts off with a where-were-they-when, popping in on Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Tony Blair, etc. circa 1975, and then moving to Bush’s first month in office. A combination of public speeches and behind-closed-doors meetings firmly vilify Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, showing that they were planning an invasion of the Middle East from the beginning of Bush’s term and that they were looking at an invasion only to “set an example” to the rest of the world.
One great scene has Bush (Doug Johnson, using a hysterical Texan accent) on the phone with Blair (Rich Rand, in a passionate performance): The U.K. forces had bin Laden, but were ordered by American forces to let him go. Blair wants to know why, and Bush meets his question with silence. Later, Bush states that he doesn’t even care about bin Laden anymore.
Other memorable moments: Powell (an exceptional Michael Smith, in a dignified performance) states that we know Iraqis have weapons of mass destruction because we still have the receipts. Rumsfeld (portrayed uber cocky by Ken Klingenmeier) says Bush’s coinage of the phrase War on Terror is good because it’s “vague.” Rice (played smartly by Dena Toler, the only character not in basic black, but bright red) translates Bush’s babbling into political-sounding paragraphs. Dick Cheney (Will Carlson) uses the word “fuck.” Bush says the reason he ran for office was because “God told me to.” And the reason behind the play’s name: Rumsfeld’s reaction to the chaos in Iraq was, “Stuff happens.”
The cast has a good grasp of the inherent humor in the script, while often deadpanning lines, taking their characters as seriously as Bush et al. do. Dialogue is taken from real conversations, allowing the characters to dig their own graves, so to speak. While director Dale McFadden keeps the pace of the show at a quick clip, the Phoenix Theatre production still clocks in at almost three hours.
Stuff Happens continues at the Phoenix, 749 N. Park Ave., through Nov. 18. Tickets are $25. Call 317-635-PLAY.