Kim Carson, Conan McCarty, Peter Schmitz
Lee Blessing is best known for his play A Walk In the Woods, a view of U.S. and U.S.S.R. arms negotiations and the reasons behind this complex diplomatic dance. It was thoughtful and nuanced and set the bar high for his future work. Mr. Blessings latest work, having its New York premiere at 59E59 Theaters, is When We Go Upon The Sea and Mr. Blessing once again deals with political power.
This play imagines George W/ Bush on the eve of a war crimes trial in The Hague. Unfortunately, When We Go is less concerned with looking at George Bushs actions, policies and motivations and more interested in caricaturing both the ex-President and sycophantic Europeans as delusional buffoons.
Given the limitations of the piece, Conan McCarty does a great job of portraying George Bush. Mr. McCartys George W. Bush is bitter and confused, yet never pathetic. When given more to do than act perplexed, Mr. McCarty turns in a complex portrayal.
Peter Schmitz plays Piet, the Dutch butler determined to provide the ex-President with any entertainment and relaxation the night before the trail begins. Mr. Schmitz gives a restrained performance, but the entire show takes a mean-spirited twist when the ex-President starts drinking, drugging, and vacillating between self-pity and anger in his discussions with Piet.
Kim Carson plays Anna-Louis, a stunning female relaxation specialist whom ex-president Bush is offered, no strings attached. The motivations of both Piet and Anna-Louise remain murky throughout, despite attempts at explanation to the audience and the ex-President. Piet seems motivated by fear by the end of the play, while Anna-Louise’s actions are not in sync with her motivations.
These three characters become more and more friendly as the evening progresses and the intoxicants flow. Over the course of the evening the butler and ex-President Bush discuss Europe and America’s places in the wilds of the world. Here the audience expects, and is waiting for, a serious reflection on the actions of George Bush. Instead we get superficial ramblings from a bitter, drunk Nixonian reproduction, and the justifications of a frightened colonial apologist.
There is no exchange of ideas or even any serious attempt to understand what occurred during the Iraq War, and this undercuts the play. When We Go Upon The Sea veers into mean-spirited wish fulfillment by mocking George W. Bush instead of investigating what he did or why he did it. It is a cathartic journey to be sure, but not particularly pleasant to anyone involved.
The show is extremely well-directed by Paul Meshejian. He uses a nicely furnished stage (scenic design is by Meghan Jones) to provide a claustrophobic cage in which the actors cannot escape or fully banish their demons. When We Go Upon The Sea isnt a bad play, but just out of reach lies a truly great one.