By Tulis McCall

Trial of An American President; Michael Rogers, Tony Carlin Photo: Ken Nahoum

Trial of An American President; Michael Rogers; Photo: Ken Nahoum

Tony Carlin ,

The time is the present.  2016.  And we have been invited by our Narrator into the Hague where international trials covering war crimes of all natures are conducted.  Tonight’s guest is George W. Bush (Tony Carlin) who has consented to show up and face three charges: the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003; for the U.S. of Fallujah in 2004; and for Bush’s approval of torture.  The prosecutor and Narrator outline all the facts, which pretty much blame the state of the world and the emergence of ISIS on George Bush.  While that make perfect sense to me, it lacks punch or a sense of drama here.  It is a litany only.

Eventually the guest of honor appears and his opening remarks begin with, “OK, Listen up….”

I don’t think so.

To be sure Mr. Carlin has perfected a serious vocal imitation of GWB, and if you close your eyes, which you will be tempted to do, the effect is chilling.  Just as authors Tarlow and Smith had intended.

Bush goes on to say – I AM HERE TODAY, in this International Criminal Court to defend my decisions regarding going to war with Iraq and to preserve the integrity of my Presidency. I am well aware of the many controversies that surround my decision to invade Iraq and the manner of which we fought the insurgency. I am not blind or as dense — dumb if you prefer that word — as some might choose to think of me. I am confident that I will be able to show that my decisions were sound and moral. 

All of this without notes?  Bush?  Don’t ever recall him speaking that long without a script.  I could be wrong.

The evening goes down hill from here with no stops of interest along the way.  We hear from a variety of people who were affected by Bush’s decision to become the “War President.”  Soldiers were killed.  People were arrested, falsely, and tortured.  The descriptions of the torture are visceral and stomach turning.

Bush sits through all this, apologizes to some, and defends himself against others.  The United States had been attacked, and he was within his powers to do pretty much any damn thing he felt like in order to retaliate and protect Americans.  Including looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction which were there even if nobody found them.  At times he and the prosecutor get into verbal shouting matches that might work in a boys’ gymn – but an international court room?

This is  not new territory, however.  Although the authors would like it to be so, what with the political mess that is our present state of affairs.  These are people who have done their research and present this material with a true, “What if?” and invite members of the audience to be the jurors and decide Bush’s fate.  I suppose one needs two endings for this, but most likely only one will be used.

Still, all the facts are not enough to gin up more than mild interest in the goings on.  This is a court that bears no resemblance to a court.  A trial that doesn’t sound like a trial.  A Narrator that has no reason to be there except for exposition – and  too much of that will smother a story.

The result is a mashup of good intentions, fact, and no drama.  No incident that holds our attention.  Nothing that drives the tale.  Good intentions and no structure do not a successful combination make.

The Trial of An American President. Written by Dick Tarlow with Bill Smith. Directed by Stephen Eich,

WITH Tony Carlin as President George W. Bush, Mahira Kakkar as narrator, Michael Rogers as prosecutor

set designed by Ann Beyersdorfer, lighting designed by Ben Green, sound designed by Alex Dietz-Kest, .