Adrienne Barbeau inThe Property Known as Garland(Photo © Danny Sanchez)
Adrienne Barbeau in
The Property Known as Garland
(Photo © Danny Sanchez)
You take your chances when you produce a Judy Garland show at a theater in Greenwich Village. You'd better get it right! Billy Van Zandt's The Property Known as Garland might play well on the road, but not in Garland territory -- not at The Actors' Playhouse, one block away from The Stonewall, where a clash between the police and grieving gay fans broke out after the icon's death. One simply cannot present such an empty, artificial theater piece in such a locale and expect to get away with it.

The play is set backstage at the Copenhagen concert hall where Garland gave her last performance on March 25, 1969. She died three months later. The very fine but miscast actress Adrienne Barbeau (Van Zandt's wife) plays the tragic legend as a brittle, bitter woman. She looks great, but her clothes (designed by Cynthia Nordstrom) evoke Garland more than she does. Oh, she's got some of the gestures down but not the painful, poignant soul. Everything about the play is so calculated that the essence of Judy is never on display. Instead, we get shtick -- like Garland referring to her every competitor as a drunk and, after each such pronouncement, taking a swig of wine. Funny? Maybe once. But we lost count of the number of times that director Glenn Casale repeats this tired, old gag.

The piece has all the earmarks of a one-person show but is technically a two-hander, with game assistance offered by Kerby Joe Grubb as a young Danish stage manager who adores Garland but is driven to distraction by her incessant demands. The play makes some demands upon its audience, as well. It asks us to take seriously a show about Judy Garland in which the performer playing Judy never sings. Also, it asks us to accept Barbeau as Garland when this city is teeming with male and female impersonators who can create both the physical image of the legend and her voice (singing and speaking) far more effectively.

If The Property Known as Garland were a better play, all of this might not matter so much. Unfortunately, what we have here is nothing more than a rehash of the same old story.

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Jason Levinson and Jay Falzone in Bush Wars(Photo © Steve Schwartz)
Jason Levinson and Jay Falzone in Bush Wars
(Photo © Steve Schwartz)
Burning Bush

Bush Wars recently reopened at the Rattlestick Theater after a previous run at Collective:Unconscious. While this musical comedy revue may not cause the President of the United States to quake in his boots, it will surely make audiences quake with laughter. (Well, at least, the Democrats in the audience!)

Conceived by Jim Russek and written by Nancy Holson, the show is a melange of parody numbers and sketches that satirize all things Bush. Some bits are funnier than others, and one or two don't work at all; but most of the songs have bitingly clever lyrics, while the blackouts are extremely witty. Rather than settle for simple sarcasm, the sketches often surprise you with their depth and intensity. In other words, this is political theater that's smart as well as entertaining. The cast of five -- counting the onstage musical director, Alex Rovang -- is a solid group of performers. But keep your eye on Chris Van Hoy and on Jay Falzone, who also choreographed and co-directed the show with Holson; these two guys are particularly gifted singer/comedians.

We need not enumerate all of the issues that are satirized in Bush Wars. Suffice it to say, the show cuts a wide swath, making the audience laugh often and deep enough that you won't feel alone in your feelings about what's going on in our country under the current administration.

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[To contact the Siegels directly, e-mail them at siegels@theatermania.com.]