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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

The Same Old Stuff Happens at ACT Theatre

Also see David's review of Movieola: Songs of the Silver Screen

Stuff Happens
Charles Dumqas
Thanks to intelligent, snappy direction by Victor Pappas, and the efforts of a more than able cast of mainly Seattle stalwarts, David Hare's Stuff Happens at ACT Theatre is a reasonably engrossing (if at nearly 3 hours, overlong) depiction of the road mapped by George W. Bush and the other major players in his administration, which leads the U.S. into the war against Iraq. Hare's script however, though pointedly laced with vitriolic humor, doesn't really tell anyone who has been paying any attention at all to the world situation at all, anything really new to wrap our minds around.

Playing political figures who are rammed down our throats in the visual and press media every day lays out an acting challenge, and many of Pappas' cast members meet the challenge with vivid interpretations, rather than imitations of the Bush power elite. R. Hamilton Wright doesn't ever stoop to caricature in his balanced, believable portrayal of President Bush. Charles Dumas delivers the most multi-dimensional, sympathetic portrayal in the play as Colin Powell. Mark Chamberlin is ideally cast and enormously entertaining as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Michael Winters makes for a more interesting Dick Cheney in my eyes than the real thing, Frank Corrado is an appropriately unsettling Donald Rumsfeld, and David Pichette is sublimely slithery as French U.N. representative Dominique de Villepin. Mark Jenkins has some nice moments as well as Hans Blix, but Tracy Michelle Hughes is simply too warm and welcoming a presence to convince as the complex Condoleezza Rice, The miniscule amount of stage time allotted to Marianne Owen (cameoing as Laura Bush among others) and Julie Briskman in various small roles seems like luxury casting. Larry Paulsen, Richard Ziman and Peter Crook have slightly more stage time in their ensemble roles and are all solid.

Robert A. Dahlstrom's set makes the Allen Theatre feel more roomy than I can recall, though otherwise it seems a bit on the functional side. Mary Louise Geiger's extraordinary and precise lighting design is a wonder to behold, and costume designer Catherine Hunt dresses the world of the power elite with pinpoint accuracy.

ACT's commitment to presenting thought-provoking recent plays has been laudable, and it's always a pleasure to see director Pappas' fine hand in evidence working with a solid cast. But Hare's play still feels like reheated leftovers from the nightly news, and it ultimately left me wanting, in vain, to change the channel to something more illuminating and entertaining.

Stuff Happens runs through July 22, 2007 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street, downtown Seattle. For more information go to ACT on-line at www.acttheatre.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David-Edward Hughes



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