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Hilda Guttormsen and Laura LeBleu
in Laura's Bush
(Photo © Sun Productions)
All across the country, audiences are seeing Laura's Bush. Playwright Jane Martin has made her play available royalty-free to small theater companies, and it is being performed in Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, and other cities in advance of the November election. Vital Theatre Company, in association with Live Theater, is offering the New York premiere, directed by Jack Daniel Stanley. Unfortunately, while the title of this political comedy is eye-catching, and some of the writing is mildly amusing, the production as a whole falls flat.

In the play, Dody Dotson (Hilda Guttormsen), a librarian, believes that First Lady Laura Bush (Laura LeBleu) has been blinking her eyes in Morse code during her television appearances, supposedly sending the message "Help me." Abetted by an Amazonian dominatrix from Kansas named Desiree Jones (Jane Aquilina), Dody hatches a plot to rescue her. The two convey Mrs. Bush to a secret hiding place where the First Lady reveals that the man sitting in the White House is not her husband; the real George Bush is actually a genius who is being kept prisoner in the basement of a Wal-Mart while a more pliable body double takes his place. Since this body double also happens to have been castrated, Laura has not had sex in years; almost immediately, she embarks upon a passionate lesbian affair with Dody. There's more to the plot, of course, but this brief description should give you an idea of the level of the show's humor.

It's clear that the playwright intends a farcical tone, and she has come up with a few good one-liners. When Desiree agrees to take time off from her job as a sex worker to help Dody, she rationalizes her decision by declaring, "There's not a hell of a lot of difference between sex and politics. Either way, I get fucked." (If you're offended by foul language or crass sexual humor, this is not the most appropriate play for you.) The main trouble with the production is that Stanley has his cast perform nearly every line in an exaggerated, self-aware manner that quickly becomes tiresome. There's no depth to any of the characters and little variety in the way they speak. At least the performers have plenty of energy, but it's not being utilized very well here; a show requires more than actors loudly declaiming their lines or throwing themselves whole-heartedly into simulated sex scenes to make it work. As the play progresses, it becomes more and more outrageous but less and less funny. By the time principal characters start to be killed off, one has ceased to care about them.

In an effort to comment upon or influence the upcoming Presidential elections, a number of playwrights have fast-tracked new works for production. Some of these, like A.R. Gurney's Mrs. Farnsworth, are smartly satirical pieces that actually have substance. Sadly, Laura's Bush is a sophomoric effort to ridicule the current administration without offering much in terms of intelligent or entertaining critique.

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