No matter how loved or hated, every president will be mocked. It's included in the Constitution under "Responsibilities of the Head of State”: You shall be made fun of in good times and in bad—deal with it.
President George W. Bush knows this aspect of employment very, very well. Satirists, stand-up comics and sketch artists use Bush's way with words and international policy to craft fine-tuned works of hilarity. It's an art form that defies party lines, because it doesn't matter who you voted for; Bushisms are funny.
But being Bush-neutral isn't the aim of The Madness of King Georgie Bush, a new play written by local playwright Richard Edwards and performed by Nth Degree Productions. The Madness of King Georgie Bush takes aim at our current administration and lets ’er rip, putting the reality of our political situation on stage in a Shakespearean way.
The Madness of King Georgie Bush is set in the land of Yaledom, where King Georgie Bush (lovingly referred to as KGB, played by Scott Bing) reigns supreme and dissent is not an option. King Georgie is surrounded by yes-men, including drunken Lord Vanderdork (Calvin Beckworth), flamboyant Lord Fixitall (Rick Ortega) and a couple of cheerleaders—
Yaledom, it seems, is headed for disaster. The Earl of Spent (Henrique Valdovinos) points to a dwindling treasury and the dangers of acquiring debt, while Lord Fixitall isn't convinced the war on terror is working out. With the bureaucratic world crashing down around him, King Georgie is more intent on punishing those who conspire—Dutchess Enditall (Victoria Amada) and Lord Notsowell (Jeff Pierce)—and bringing religious freedom to the infidels via the tip of a sword.
Dissecting the presidency of George W. Bush through performance isn't an original idea, but the placement of modern-day troubles in a medieval world adds some freshness. Edwards has an interesting idea here—giving the usually bumbling Bush a slur of Elizabethan lines to add to his awkwardness. But Edwards' play isn't fully realized. There are too many characters and too few scenes to gain any development, and rather than let King Georgie become increasingly insane onstage, he's already off his rocker and it's those around him who finally clue in. The likening of King Georgie to Shakespeare's King Lear in the beginning of the play, including an ever-present fool (played by Sallie Phipps) who isn't afraid to speak his mind, is a smart parallel, but one that isn’t continued through the play. A Bush satire does not an instant hit make.
The costuming and staging of The Madness of King Georgie Bush were easily highlights in the amazing N4th Theater space. King Georgie's giant codpiece and cowboy boots inspired almost as much commentary as the play and aided in a few laughs. The use of a projection screen to indicate the setting offered some clever images, including a Bush-Jesus hybrid overlooking Bishop Moraless (Joe Martinez) as he consoles Lady Laura (Jamie Levy).
Performances of note include the underused Lord Notsowell, played by Jeff Pierce. According to his bio, Pierce is new to Albuquerque but not new to the stage, a fact that presents itself during his short scene. Pierce is obviously familiar with Shakespearean verbage and how to act melodramatically without overacting. Henrique Valdovinos also holds a command of the language and provides a sincere performance as the Earl of Spent, and Rick Ortega isn't afraid to take it to the absurd as Lord Fixitall to add some humor. The production benefits greatly from their contributions.
The Madness of King Georgie Bush isn't a bang-up, laugh-out-loud work of satirical genius, but it sows the seeds of something that could be insightful if Edwards is willing to rework his script now that a live production has exposed some flaws. After all, King Georgie sucking his thumb while being berated by a member of his staff is funny, but good base material does not assure a good final product.