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Paulanne Simmons

Bush Bashing at It Best

"Bush Wars: Musical Revenge"
Directed and Created b y Nancy Holson & Jay Falzone
The Actors' Playhouse
100 Seventh Ave. South, between Bleecker and Christopher streets
Wed. thru Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 3, 7, 10 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m.
$55, $37.50 Sunday (212) 239-6200 or www.telecharge.com
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Oct. 7, 2006

Even the harshest critic of George W. Bush would have to admit that, if nothing else, his administration has engendered more political dramas, musicals and documentaries than the American public has seen in a long time. The worst of these efforts are childish, nasty and ultimately boring. The best, like Nancy Holson and Jay Falzone's "Bush Wars: Musical Revenge," are clever, engaging and often to the point.

"Bush Wars; Musical Revenge" proceeds under the conceit that Bush's presidency is the result of a pact with the devil. Once this has been established, the ensemble cast sings a medley of songs that review Bush's blunders over the past six years. The musical numbers are all delicious parodies of well-known songs.

"Be My Guest" ridicules Bush's immigration proposals and makes the incisive observation, "Sweatshop labor is in fashion. Watch us spin it to compassion." An unhappy ape warbles "Everything's out of date in Kansas City." Dick Cheney, in bed with the oil companies, sings "You Really Got a Hold on Me."

But the funniest scene is the one which includes Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Falzone) diagnosing members of the audience. During these brief encounters, he discovers people suffering from Tourette's syndrome, amnesia and syphilis. (The syphilitic, of her own free will, recalled the encounter with Frist that led to her illness.) A close runner-up is the scene between Osama bin Laden, George Bush and their mothers, who meet at a restaurant on Mothers' Day.

Back in the Oval Office, Bush plays with G.I. Joes who are looking for WMDs and takes a few swings at a golf ball. From time to time he takes calls from Cheney and Carl Rove so that he will know what to say in his next speech.

"Bush Wars" also covers FEMA and hurricane Katrina, the Supreme Court's move to the right, Bush's efforts to preserve the institution of marriage, and of course Iraq ("I want a war just like the war declared by dear old Dad," the President sings; a class in Republican Sociology teaches the value of fear).

Holson and Falzone write with insight and wit, and direct with a professionalism and restraint not always seen in this kind of show. They know when to go for the jugular and when to just have fun. Their attacks are, for the most part, political and not personal.

The cast is uniformly energetic and appropriately over-the-top. Jason Levinson, who plays George W. Bush, captures the President's characteristic naiveté, belligerence, and good-old-boy enthusiasm so well after a while he actually starts looking like the man.

With only a few props and almost know scenery, "Bush Wars" has the impromptu quality of a traveling vaudevillian show operating out of suitcases. But the well-rehearsed cast and excellent musical direction of Alexander Rovang (who also plays the piano) keep the show moving without a hitch.

It's not likely that "Bush Wars" would be appreciated in every city or county of the United States. Taking shots at the President is not a cottage industry throughout the country as it is in New York City. But political leanings aside, "Bush Wars: Musical Revenge" is funny and entertaining because, in he noble tradition of satire, it makes fun of hypocrisy, searches out the ridiculous and soothes with a smile.


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