Writer: Ian Allen
Director: John Vreeke
Reviewer: Robert Price
Upon entering the theatre for Laura Bush Killed A Guy, a “cowboy cookie” is offered in sincerest hospitality to every patron to enjoy (or covet). The semi-sweet chocolate is balanced well with other flavors and textures: coconut, oats, and pecans. The treat feels hefty enough to satisfy. The script is less substantial.
Lisa Hodsoll delivers impeccable Texas R’s as she navigates personal anecdotes and short dramatizations of the first lady’s life. The journey is nostalgic. She revisits some of the more notable happenings of her life with George W. and some of the oldest jokes. Amidst the reminiscing is the dramatic struggle around the memory of her car accident. The event is reenacted several times, each with different circumstances. Our understanding of the facts evolves. Lighting and sound by David C. Ghatan and Lucas Zarwell, respectively, cooperate toward transporting the audience into the realm of memory with living projections. Bush’s trademark spunk is presented alongside solemn reflections on her legacy. Hodsoll keeps a mannerly composure through it all, her vocal rhythm landing like unfamiliar music, keeping the ear engaged. She checks in for a laugh with an incline of her head and a raised eyebrow. She is able to work the text despite a confused audience.
Where stories or editorials seem to trail off, a sudden blackout marks the next segment with a short title projected over the stage. She sits and stands in the brief darknesses, directing by John Vreeke. The musings are not arranged chronologically, and projections help delineate three acts: Perdition, Sedition, and Contrition. This hints that Laura Bush should be viewed as some grand tragic character but the content does not support this high-art supertitling. The evening reads like a casual, long-form magazine piece to help sell her book (but written today and with a little more saucy gossip). Ian Allen’s script spends ten minutes reflecting on the patriotic turmoil that was September 11th while Hurricane Katrina hangs in the air barely addressed. This might be an intentional choice to show her unwillingness to discuss it or it might be an oversight. Either way the conversation is evaded, much to the relief of the grandmothers in attendance.
Light racism speckles the script, passing for humor as the crowd waits for something they can respond to. Is that moment where she does an “Indian voice” an honest depiction of her insensitivity, or a tribute to the politically incorrect comedy of yesteryear? You decide!
However you feel about Laura Bush, your views will not be challenged by the idea that she smokes cigarettes and reads books.
Runs until 8 July 2017 | Image: Joan Marcus