'Stuff Happens' a play by David Hare, directed by Gordon Davidson could only be happily welcomed in America's designated 'blue states.' Its liberal spin would not fly in the middle states, namely the ones that President Bush won over in the presidential elections, so staunch Republicans beware.
'Stuff Happens' lays out the background of what led the United States into the Iraq war, the series of events that led to the conflict, and the parts played by world leaders. A company of 22 actors portray 96 different characters, bringing to life a glimpse at the inner-workings of a private circle that shaped world history. Although 9-11 and talk of the Iraq war may seem overdone in both the media and representations through various entertainment venues, it is current and cannot be forgotten. It is a landmark of our time, an event that will permanently stain the hearts and memories of human beings everywhere, and is an event manipulated into fine art by Hare. Similar to the event itself, Hare's play will remain in one's memory for long after they leave the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
Whatever political standpoint one might have, one cannot ignore the superb performances and clever script of 'Stuff Happens.' The truth is scary. The truth hurts, and this play drives the knife deeper and deeper, exacerbating the political wounds that America as well as the rest of the world has and is suffering from. 'Stuff Happens' exposes the dirt and grime of politicians in the wake of 9-11, making a mockery of President Bush (played by Keith Carradine), Donald Rumsfeld (played by Michael Higgins), Vice president Dick Cheney (played by Dakin Matthews), and Paul Wolfowitz (played by Kip Gilman), as well as other political figureheads that serve as easy targets for public humiliation. There is little color in this play filled with black and white suit clad actors portraying governments worldwide. The introduction lays out the premise for the title 'Stuff Happens', being a phrase that Donald Rumsfeld said in response to questions about the looting of Baghdad.
Despite some rusty British, French, and even Texan accents, the actors embodied their roles with intensity and commitment. Carradine, playing President Bush is more fluid and well spoken than his character. Because of Bush's distinct speech pattern, along with an awkward disposition, one must embrace those characteristics no matter how absurd they may be. But, Carradine acted with confidence and unfaltering consistency, which is a comforting aspect for a patient audience. 'Stuff Happens', being a three hour long play is a tad wordy and drawn out during the first half, but quickly changes pace subsequent to intermission. With an interesting set designed by Ming Cho Lee, it provides the audience with a fly on the wall type of feeling. The original set design contributed greatly to the political as well as official setting that this type of play directly aims for. 'Stuff Happens' provides an in-depth look into David Hare's perception of the White House, and political systems within.
Although there is validity to the dialogue that proves true-to-life, there is a left-wing slant to the post 9-11 situation. In my opinion, Prime Minister Tony Blair (played by Julian Sands) was given more moral credit than he deserved not to take away from Sands incredible acting performance. Blair is presented as a rose in a bed of thorns, those thorns being the U.S, namely President Bush. Personally, I would like to see a fair and balanced depiction of a political situation as heated and important as the Iraq war. But, fair and balanced does not necessarily carry the same meaning it had in the past. And despite the fact that I had some internal conflicts about the political slant, I found myself laughing on various occasions throughout the play. One cannot deny that it was not well acted or scripted, but with a heated topic such as this one, controversy is inevitable.