Like so many British artists, David Hare is drunk on politics, and believes the world is waiting to know how he thinks it should be run. At the same time he is, or can be, a talented playwright, acutely sensitive to the demands of the stage. These two impulses are at odds in “Stuff Happens,” which had its New York premiere last night at the Public Theater. In fact, “Stuff Happens” is two plays in one. The first is a Shakespeare-style history play in which Mr. Hare tries to imagine how George W. Bush and his advisers might have decided to go to war with Iraq. It’s pretty good–at times quite good–and on occasion almost convincing. The second is a documentary play about the Bush administration’s conduct of the war. It’s a flop, full of coarse caricatures and stiff with smugness.
The star of Play No. 1 is Colin Powell (Peter Francis James), whom Mr. Hare portrays as a “tragic hero” (his phrase) who knows the war is a mistake but lacks the courage of his convictions and so crumbles into tight-lipped pusillanimity when put to the test by President Bush (Jay O. Sanders). This is a dramatically promising situation and Mr. Hare makes much of it…
Oh, dear, incest again: David Eldridge’s “Festen,” a stage version of Thomas Vinterberg’s 1998 film “The Celebration,” is another of those extravaganzas in which the members of a dysfunctional family get together for dinner and suddenly start blurting out long-suppressed truths….
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UPDATE: The Journal has now posted a free link to this review. To read the whole thing, go here.