Volume 18 • Issue 36 | January 20 - 26, 2006

Theater

“Bush Wars”
Opens Sunday, January 22nd
Collective: Unconscious
279 Church St., corner of White Street
(212-254-5277; weird.org)

Photo by Steve Schwartz

Jason Levinson plays George W. and Jay Falzone is Mama Bush in yet another satirical play critiquing this administration.

Preaching to a liberal audience

By Rachel Breitman

In the spirit of stand-up comedians, Saturday Night Live’s “Not Necessarily the News” and The Daily Show, writer and director Nancy Holson has always had a slightly skewed take on politics. Her 15-year-old musical, “The News in Review,” found humor in topics ranging from Hillary Clinton’s 1992 cookie recipes to Martha Stewart’s trial.

The Wilton, Connecticut native worked for years in her family’s photo album business and raised her children while writing creatively. For “The News in Review,” her first professional production, Holson recruited a local cast of Connecticut actors. Since then, the constantly evolving musical comedy has aired on PBS, won several Emmy Awards and ran in theaters in New York, Connecticut, Florida, Colorado, and Massachusetts. Her audiences have included former President Gerald Ford and other local and national politicians.

But for her latest show, “Bush Wars,” opening Sunday at Collective: Unconscious, Holson has a more partisan message. Unlike “The News in Review,” which goaded both political parties for hypocrisy, “Bush Wars” aims directly at the Commander-In-Chief, Vice President, and cabinet members with 16 musical parody pieces critiquing their take on the Geneva Convention, evolution, social security, and religious freedom.

“I have always have been interested in politics,” says Holson, who previously volunteered on political campaigns and served as a representative in her Westport, Connecticut town council. “The topics in this show are ‘ripped from the headlines,’ so to speak. We deal with wiretapping, the Patriot Act, and Republican Sociology 101 — using fear to scare the people so you can get away with your agenda.” She co-directs “Bush Wars” with kindred political and artistic spirit, Jay Falzone, who worked with her on “The News in Review.” The show was conceived by theatrical advertiser Jim Russek, a former national political organizer whose credits date back to New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s administration and Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign.

Holson sees the potential pitfalls in preaching to an already-converted audience and making the Republican characters seem so foolish and silly that her political message is lost.

Says Holson, “I think the way to deal with it is to analyze the issues, rather than make cartoons of the people. The issues have dire consequences. People are dying.”

The cast, including Jason Levinson, who plays President Bush, largely shares Holson’s political sentiments. His George Bush is an occasionally silly, occasionally menacing character who is a bit of an orchestrator and a bit of a mouthpiece. “My favorite scene in ‘Bush Wars’ is the finale,” says Levinson, who has performed in “The News in Review” since 2001. “We see George Bush at the end of his term. It is set to a popular Frank Sinatra tune, and you get to see him at the final moment of his presidency, reflecting on all of the work he’s done. If you are not a staunch conservative Republican, this is your team going to the World Series.”

In one musical interlude, Levinson appears in a dancing duet with an actor dressed as a cowboy boot-wearing Jesus Christ. Together, they sing, “Remember that who else but a bosom buddy/Can walk on the water/Interpreting broader/The joining of church and state.”

Holson knows that such pointed critique of Fundamentalist Christian theology making its way into legislation may not be as broadly palatable as “The News in Review,” which has played before audiences ranging from Wall Street firms to US Tobacco companies and the Bankruptcy Bar Association.

But it would have some staying power. Says Holson, “We could do it for the DNC’s next convention.”


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