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A CurtainUp Review
The Trial Of An American President . . .What If?
By Elyse Sommer
The problem, with The Trial of an American President is that despite all its good intentions, it's not a very good play. According to Tarlow's program biography, he flunked out of his college drama class fifty-four years ago with a Theater of the Absurd Drama that tried to emulate Ionesco and Beckett. Still hooked on the absurdist gentre Tarlow has now tried to do what the world has failed to do —, hold George W. Bush accountable for a war with truly disastrous ripple effects— with an imaginary courtroom drama.
Having the former president leave his paints and easel in Texas to voluntarily allow the International Court at the Hague to try him certainly fits Tarlow's long-ago interest in the absurdist genre. And Tony Carlin does his best to make us buy into the Bush persona. Unfortunately his best isn't convincing enough to buy into the conceit of the set-up—, especially when backed by the very real images of the background videos extensively used to enlarge the scope of this 3-character play in one of Theater Row's smallest venues. And so The Trial of an American President, like that long agao college play, again warrants a flunking grade.
The two characters besides Bush are the Hague Court's prosecutor (Michael Rogers) and the play's narrator (Mahira Kakkar) have plenty to say. Though the trial purports to be open-minded and fair, their aggressively accusatory tone and words say otherwise. Kakkar's narrator winds up her rundown of what led up to this trial with "And who knows? The truth...in the end, might surprise us all...even me." Yet it's unlikely that anyone in the audience will expect her to be jogged out of her j'accuse mindset. Most likely any surprise in store for her or anyone would be that any of the nine audience members who are selected as jurors at each performance will find Bush not guilty. Like so many strongly opinionated plays, The Trial. . . is bound to be preaching to the chorus. And, unless the Bush and Cheney families accompanied by a bunch of friends decide to attend a performance, it's a pretty sure bet that Bush's fate will be the same for most of the play's run.
As enlisting the audience to serve as jurors is ineffective and gimmicky, neither does having the actors occasionally step down from the stage enliven the production and connect them more intimately with the audience.
Clearly a lot of money has been spent on the very lively and excellent filmed elements. However, while repeated declarations of faith are the main defense offered up by Carlin's Bush, the videographers were apparently unable to dig up any footage of the real Bush praying in his White House bedroom.
Tickets for this mix of live theater and televised documentary cost $51— not to mention premium priced tickets in a theater where every seat is premium. Anyone anxious to prevent a repeat of past disastrously wielded presidential power, might more effectively send a check in that amount, or as much as they can afford, to the candidate they trust.
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The Trial Of An American President
Written By Dick Tarlow With Bill Smith
Directed by Stephen Eich
Cast: Tony Carlin, Mahira Kakkar, Michael Rogers.
Scenic Designer, Ann Beyersdorfer
Lighting Designer,Ben Green
Sound Designer, Alex Dietz-kest
Video Production & Editing, Philip Coccioletti For Sugarcamp Productions
Projection Designer, Kevan Loney
Stage Manager, Kate Kavett
Running Time: 80 minutes
Lion Theater,410 W. 42nd Street
From 9/17/16; opening 9/29/16; closing 10/15/16.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 9/27/16 press Preview
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