Tragic king dumb

Political satire gets a soul in “McBush”

Greg Corradini

President George W. Bush has been the object of many flattering comparisons (Hitler, pubic hair), but never one as apt as Macbeth.

University senior Dan O’Neil sees witches in the Bush administration and the cauldron of its foreign policy bubbling.

This weekend, PNT Theater Company will stage ‘Neil’s “McBush,” a narrative that shares some plot and theme traits with Shakespeare’s classic “Macbeth.”

But you won’t find O’Neil getting his hands dirty with the mudslinging tradition that defines anti-Bush political theater.

“Bad political theater is preachy and one-sided. It might be funny, but it isn’t very effective,” O’Neil said.

Instead, O’Neil’s “McBush” meditates on issues of blind ambition and the corrosive effect of power.

In forging associations with “Macbeth,” O’Neil had to make his character, McBush, like Shakespeare’s tragic hero, a likeable character before he made him into a vicious baboon.

“If you are doing Shakespeare the right way, then you have a tragic hero with a flaw. Macbeth’s flaw is that he wants too much power and doesn’t see the problems it creates,” O’Neil said.

McBush, too, is power hungry. The play’s action follows his unexplainable rise to power from the war in Iraq to the nauseating occupation.

Offering a dark alternative to Dick and Bush jokes, O’Neil shows us a president isolated in a fantasy world of weapons of mass destruction spin, in which evil forces threaten his power.

That’s not to say that O’Neil doesn’t also conjure up the salty wickedness of satire in “McBush.”

Some scenes break character, theatrical walls and binge-drinking laws simultaneously.

In these moments, the three witches influencing McBush’s fate (Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld) often shed character and become regular actors.

A drinking game is implemented for every good or evil binary that the McBush administration evokes. And a character reads all stage directions aloud while sitting on a ladder.

If the critical weapons at play in “McBush” were any sharper, Bush and his nincompoop administration might have more to fear than terrorism and an Iraqi civil war.

“Political theater is a dangerous thing, it always has been,” O’Neil said.

Double, double, toil and trouble.