Thursday, August 18, 2016

Waiting for Obama


Waiting for Obama is an issue-based play by John Moore, presented as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. It’s produced by Wild Blindness Productions and Bas Bleu Theatre Company from Denver, Colorado. Readers considering seeing Mr. Moore’s play at a later production should be warned that this review contains spoilers.

In this play we meet Hank and his son Peter, who are standing at their respective doors of their “little duplex in the woods outside of Colorado Springs” with their AR-15’s, waiting for President Obama. Hank believes Obama is going to come to take away his guns (they’re on his wall); Peter (who voted for Obama – twice) has invited him. Hank is a standard Fox News redneck; his wife, Martha, is more enlightened. “There’s a drought in this country, Martha,” he tells her, “Freedom is dying of thirst.” We’re guided throughout the show by Benny, Peter’s son, who lives on the roof and addresses us throughout the play.

The action of the play is interrupted several times to report actual shootings. After a few gunshots, Benny reports dates, locations and the number of victims. The device is skillfully executed and works very well. These moments keep the characters grounded in real life and never interrupt the play for long.

As the characters reveal themselves we learn the family’s history. Benny was killed as a baby by a robber, and his mother committed suicide from grief. Peter’s determination to defend his gun rights stems from his feeling that he failed to defend his child. Mr. Moore shows a real understanding of some gun rights advocates here and saves the play from being merely dogmatic. What’s more, he gives Hank some depth of character at the end of the play.

Obama does, in fact, show up, precisely half-way through the play, and he and Hank set out on an articulate debate about gun rights. Benny interrupts them, however, telling us that they’ve cut 432 pages of debate from the script.

And so Mr. Moore weaves his play using several dramatic devises, and using them well. But the play doesn’t have much plot, and we miss it in the first half of the play. Revelations can’t replace action.

Brian Freeland directs the piece, and keeps everything moving along nicely. The actors serve the script well. The prominent performance is Laurence Curry’s marvelous impersonation of President Obama. He’s studied Obama’s speech patterns and delivers his lines with the characteristic educated, gentle, persuasive intonation.

And so FringeNYC continues its role gathering theatrical talent. It’s gathered nearly 200 shows in its twentieth year.

Steve Capra
August 2016