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'Stuff Happens' is a winning satire of politics gone wrong

By Marian Gaviola
On October 17, 2007

  • Actors and actresses perform a scene from Stuff Happens, which opened last week. Alexa King

10/17/07 - "Stuff Happens" is a euphemism we all use in a SOL moment when we just don't care. It's alright for us to say it, but somehow, it just doesn't cut it when Donald Rumsfeld says it in response to a question about the looting in Baghdad that happened after the war started. British dramatist David Hare wrote a play titled Stuff Happens, which brings to the forefront lines like Rumsfeld's as well as facts and ideas directly related to the ongoing war in Iraq. Why are we there? What events led to this difficult situation? Does the end justify the means?

In this politically-charged play, Hare brings up these questions and answers them... somewhat. Hare himself admits that his play is no documentary. Although much of the dialogue comes from real-life leaders' public statements, many scenes that occur behind closed doors come from Hare's imagination. The play is full of interesting - and sometimes shocking - dialogue that tells a story of politics gone wrong.

Under the direction of Christian Wittwer, University of Rhode Island students put on a great performance last Friday at the J-Studio in the URI Fine Arts Center. With great performances by the lead actors, Tyler Fischer, Benjamin Gracia and Kevin Broccoli, URI's version of the play shows what Hare wanted his audience to see: "How a supposedly stupid man, George W. Bush, gets everything he wants - and a supposedly clever man, Tony Blair, ends up with nothing he wants."

The play opens with the actors getting into character by first talking along with videos of our leaders as they are introduced. This part of the play was sloppily done but it didn't deter from the overall strength of the performance.

Tyler Fischer, who played George Bush, is the best Bush impersonator I have ever seen. Don't get me wrong; he didn't look at all like Dubya, but the mannerisms he put forth were impressive, as was his accent- right down to the slightly hoarse voice.

Fischer portrayed Bush just as Hare wanted him to look: spoiled, stupid and downright dumb. In the play, Bush is constantly meeting with the other characters, putting forth his own agenda or being influenced to put forth the agenda of others like Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld. Given the gravity of the situation portrayed, Bush was a spot of silliness, and Fischer truly delivered with his amazing acting skills.

In contrast to Bush/Fischer's goofy character, Colin Powell, played by Benjamin Gracia, turns out to be quite the serious one. Gracia's acting was powerful to the point where I actually felt goosebumps rise as he raised his voice in anger. Hare depicted Powell as a very heroic character and Gracia made it very easy to sympathize with him.

Overall, the play had a grave tone to it, interrupted by occasional sparks of humor. One of the biggest sparks happened right before the first act ended with the entire cast dancing a country jig to a song about a smoking gun and mushroom clouds. The play took great advantage of the available footage from the war as well as prominent figures' public statements to get the point across- so although there was much laughter throughout the play, no one could've missed the gravity of the situation depicted.

Set aside three hours (I know, it's quite long. But trust me, it's definitely worth it) to watch URI thespians put on a great show about an event that has made an impact in all of our lives.

Stuff Happens will be presented tomorrow through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center J-Studio. Tickets are $14 general admission, $10 seniors and URI faculty and staff and $8 for students.

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