After Bush-Assassination 'Documentary,' N.Y. Theater Stages A Bush-'Whacked' Drama

April 11th, 2007 4:32 PM

On the heels of last year's "documentary" by Gabriel Range concocting an assassination of President Bush in "Death of A President," Bill Hutchinson of the New York Daily News reported a new play in the Big Apple that also treads along the Bush-assassination theme. The playwright's thinly disguised Bush-resembling fictional president gets "whacked like Julius Caesar by a confidant."

A FAMED CITY theater group is inviting controversy by staging a play in which a character thinly veiled as President Bush gets assassinated. "President and Man" begins a five-day run at The Duke on 42nd St. tonight as one of eight one-act plays staged by the Naked Angels Theater Company, whose members include Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. Conservatives are already panning it as another sick liberal jab at the President.

The headline was "Right-wingers outraged by Prez slay play." In this case, I took the phone call.

"Would this happen if the President were a Democrat?" said Tim Graham of the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog. "I can't recall anybody who made assassinating-Clinton plays."

The play, written by Louis Cancelmi, depicts a besieged commander in chief, who gets whacked like Julius Caesar by a confidant. Cancelmi insists his fictional President, played by Oscar-nominated actor Chris Sarandon, is not modeled after Bush.

"There probably are parallels people could draw," Cancelmi said. "It's about a President who's lost confidence in himself and who seems to have lost confidence in the people he governs, and has become paranoid about being gotten rid of, as it were."

Hutchinson then turned to the playwright to contradict the critic, who had no idea this play was so brief:

Cancelmi scoffed at Republicans and conservatives for knocking his 15-minute play, adding that such themes are "trodden ground" in the theater. "You don't have to look very far into Shakespeare's plays to find examples of regicide," he said.

All I knew of this play is what the reporter told me, so I'm not the most qualified critic of this mini-epic. But his argument does not contradict the point that Shakespearean regicide transported to today's American politics was not an "entertainment" staple during the Clinton presidency. But in general, I would hope that conservatives are not "transgressive" enough to champion the creativity of kill-a-facsimile-of-the-current-president drama, Republican or Democrat. It's easier for the artistic avant-garde to put such plots in motion for the masses.

By the way, isn't a playwright named Cancelmi just asking for a short theatrical run?