43 Plays for 43 Presidents, Neo-Futurists. Like the Neo-Futurists’ “Hall of Presidents”–hung in the entranceway to the performance space are paintings by various artists that memorialize and/or ridicule our nation’s 43 commanders in chief–this hit-and-run presidential cavalcade has an audacious charm. As conceived by Andy Bayiates, the two-hour show profiles each of our country’s leaders in two minutes or less, with particular emphasis on the corruption, ambition, and self-delusion that have plagued the office for over two centuries. Harrison has a mania for slaughtering Indians. Polk, a champion of manifest destiny, fills the White House with slaves because “it is their destiny.” Taft is an overstuffed crybaby, throwing a tantrum until he becomes a Supreme Court justice.
Unfortunately the show’s rapid-fire format leaves little room for ideas to mature, themes to emerge, or a point of view to coalesce. The history of the presidency becomes a series of isolated, distorted cartoons, sometimes entertaining, sometimes inventive, but rarely enlightening. An endless slew of props seems pulled from 43 different hats, creating an incoherent visual iconography, and presenting one president after another prevents any arc from developing. This rather dutiful assemblage feels all the more unsatisfying given that Theater Oobleck has set the bar for political theater so high.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Johnny Knight Photo.