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A CurtainUp Review
You're Welcome America. A Final Night With George W Bush
By Elyse Sommer
The other 29% at this Broadway Live version of the Saturday Night Live Bush shtick that launched Ferrell's successful movie career probably bought their tickets hoping that the stand-up comic/actor might provide them with some final laughs at the expense of a president whose eight years of assaults on our language, our constitutional rights, our reputation as an honorable democracy and our economic well being is more the stuff of tragedy than comedy.
Actually, if you can get past the unfunny and recycled stuff, the silly and often vulgar sight gags, Ferrell does manage to create a cautionary portrait of a man permanently tone deaf to his own misbegotten and misused power. Had this show been mounted before the end of his first term, the frightening truths wrapped inside Ferrell's humorous sendup, it might have prevented some of the problems that the "Tiger Woods Guy" inherited. As it is, this is not theater that can make a difference, except to the producers' bottom line.
To insure that this show won't need a stimulus from anyone but the paying public, the producers have gone all out to give a solo show the trappings of a full-featured theatrical evening. Video designers Lisa Cuscuna and Chris Cronin smartly illustrate Ferrell's chronological recollections, and yawns are kept at bay with choreographed interludes by n the otherwise immobile Secret Service operative (Will's brother Patrick) and a dizzying turn by Pia Glenn as Condolezza Rice. To ramp up the laughs, Ferrell's script mixes fiction with fact with the fiction often funnier than the facts. Oh, yes, there's also audience interaction which includes a shoe throwing audience plant and a closing game of Ferrell's Bush asking people their occupation and then dubbing them with instant nicknames.
In fairness to the producers, before we condemn them for profiteering from a historic figure who has given us more cause for heartbreak and disgust than hilarity, it's quick money makers like this that enable them to take chances on and support risky new plays like August: Osage County. Still, given the way people are filling even the second balcony and boxes, I wish that the practice of adding a restoration charge had been adapted to this show's ticket sales. A dollar or two from each ticket could go into a fund for the frowing number of unemployed or under-employed New Yorkers who need more than a laugh to ease the pain of the current economic disaster.