Will Ferrell in
You're Welcome America
(© Robert J. Saferstein)
Will Ferrell in
You're Welcome America
(© Robert J. Saferstein)
If you keep in mind that our recently retired head of state was president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Yale University -- which is generally considered the inspiration for the film Animal House -- and if you also keep in mind that Will Ferrell has made a specialty in his movies of playing adult men suffering from seriously arrested development, then you'll have a good idea of what's in store at You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush, now at the Cort Theatre under Adam McKay's smooth direction.

As a result, theatergoers who relish this kind of somewhat juvenile yukfest will likely laugh out loud through most of the gag-filled text as Ferrell flawlessly showcases the Bush mimicry he first honed on Saturday Night Live. Other audience members, however, may find much of the material in the 80-minute show as unnecessarily vulgar -- even bordering-on-the-obscene -- instead of hilarious.

As Bush -- who arrives in an unusual fashion onto Eugene Lee's star-spangled set -- recounts his family history and his past eight years in office, he recalls such nostalgic moments as Dick Cheney behaving with sexual abandon in the White House basement; a dray-horse-like Barbara Bush rescuing her hubby and the male Bush siblings from a gone-awry abandoned-mine excursion in Texas; Dubya's seemingly homosexual tryst with old buddy Dave Rothschild in the 1970s; not to mention a visit from a raunchily gyrating Condoleezza Rice (played by Pia Glenn, part of the show's little-used four-member supporting troupe).

Furthermore, the affable comic -- aided by video designers Lisa Cuscuna and Chris Cronin -- also has the unembarrassed George flash an up-close-and-personal snapshot of what he claims are his private parts. Towards show's end, Ferrell also has patrons shout out their names and occupations so that, Bush-like, he can give them instant nicknames, a bit that's almost sure to guarantee chuckles.

Indeed, even those audience members who are not Ferrell's biggest fans (myself included) may nevertheless end up appreciating the enterprise on a deeper level -- as a masterful character study that accumulates power the longer Ferrell portrays "W" as the affable gladhander and backslapper he's always appeared to be.

Smartly, Ferrell as taken an image of Bush that many Americans have indelibly etched in their currently spinning heads and expanded it into something grandly surreal and deeply frightening in its insistence on one man's impenetrable state of denial. What we see on the stage is a fellow totally and unshakably confident about his misguided and ultimately destructive leadership and decision-making. When the fictional Bush concludes the show by saying "You're Welcome America," he means it.