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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Stuff Happens’ brings hilarity to recent history

Published: November 15, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

This weekend, the Brandeis Free Play Theatre Cooperative, Brandeis’ experimental and social justice theatre group, presents a play titled “Stuff Happens” by David Hare in Mandel Atrium. The play is described as “a history play of recent history,” which is focused on the events leading up to the Iraq War, paying special attention to the dynamics between England and the United States.

The play was uniquely set in the lovely Mandel Atrium, utilizing the cozy fireplace, elegant seating areas, and a projector with different images consistent with play scenes as the office of the Bush administration. Pessimistic music such as “American Idiot” by Greenday graced the ears of the audience upon entrance, intermission and exit, adding to the marriage of pop culture and the controversial Bush administration.

Amanda Stern did a beautiful job directing the play, resulting in extremely few errors. The play focuses on George Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair, presenting them as “stock characters in pop-culture,” and combining verbatim press conferences, speeches and other modes of communication with imagined conversation of the Bush cabinet. Stern says in the director’s statement: “To the greatest extent possible, I have sought to clarify the real v. the imagined scenes through use of projections,” which was an integral part of the set.

The play stayed relatively true to the original production, with one major augmentation: all of the actors played additional roles as narrators as opposed to the three that were in Hare’s version. Stern did this to illustrate the parts that all of the individuals played in history, not just Bush (Miriam Ester Goldman ’14), Cheney (Sarah Steiker ’17), and Blair (Bezaye Takele ’15).

Goldman did an impeccable job mastering not only the trademark accent of George W. Bush, but also hilarious gestures, facial expressions and intonation. She truly embodied the essence of Bush, without seeming overly imitative. She portrayed Bush as somewhat incompetent, irresponsible and immature. Condaleeza Rice, affectionately known as Condi, (Maya Cooper ’15) was extremely possessive of Bush, and often took a very protective and loyal role over him. She definitely wore the pants in her relationship with Bush, and held the reins during cabinet meetings. Cooper had an alliance with the passive-aggressive and bitter Cheney, both of whom disliked Colin Powell (Aja Antoine ’17), the logical military strategist. Cooper took on an extremely pretentious role that nicely accentuated Steiker’s perpetually angry, bitter, jealous façade. These actors contrasted interestingly against Antoine’s sweet, ethical, and funny personality. Antoine was extremely animated,

Other notable actors were Donald Rumsfield (Sara Fried ’15), the aggressive and feisty secretary of defense, George Tenet/David Manning (Andrew Agress ’17), a childish and lovable director of central intelligence/blasé British diplomat, and Paul Wolfowitz (Sid Mehra ’17), foreign policy advisor/pretentious academic. There were enormous amounts of hysterical sexual tension between Rumsfield and Bush, Condaleeza and Bush and Wolfowitz and Bush, while Mehra never failed to crack the audience up with his creepy sexual gestures and funny voice.

Some memorable scenes of the play were when Goldman pulled out a bag of M&Ms and started to eat them during a serious conversation with Blair, oblivious to the gravity of the 9/11 aftermath and Steiker’s unforgettable furious rant at Antoine. The acting throughout the play was completely enthralling.

A confusing part of the play was an implied set change, which took place in Blair’s office, resulting in the transformation of Agress from Tenet to Manning. There were no errors except for Takele messing up on a line and repeating it so professionally, that it could have been in the script.

Although some actors stood out more than others, all of the actors in this production were excellent. The play was executed almost flawlessly, very professionally and was extremely enjoyable. Republicans be warned: you might be offended with the content of this play as well as how Bush and others are portrayed. If you are looking for some hilarious entertainment and to acquire some knowledge about the events of Bush’s first term, come see “Stuff Happens.”