When I spoke to Gordon Davidson last year for the Downtown News about his legacy and his final season at the helm of the Taper, he spoke—as he's wont to do—wistfully of the early, politically charged years at the theatre, when reportedly there were FBI agents in the audience of such controversial plays as The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. And he described the plays in his final season, a little apologetically, as "much more personal, much more about relationships, and about the nature of love and the nature of emotions. We need that also. Not that I’ve gone soft or anything. I would have loved to have in my last season a play that took on Iraq, but they’re not writing 'em."
Ah, but the Brits are, as I noted in an earlier post. And so it is with great relish that I read that Gordon's final play, to go up in June, will be David Hare's Stuff Happens, a kind of journalistic dramatization of the run-up to the war in Iraq. Davidson tells the Times it's not "docudrama" and it's not a "get-the-Administration play," and he's quite right, though of course the way Hare parses the facts and imagines the backdrop, the play doesn't end up as an endorsement of Bush foreign policy, either. Not surprisingly, its liveliest characters are Tony Blair and Colin Powell—portrayed here as men of principle caught between contending forces.
It's a perfect final play for Gordon, because it's a head-on political piece; it stops short of preaching, thank Christ, but it doesn't abstract or analogize its material, as Frayn's Democracy does. That's a better play but not the best match for Davidson's brand of big-hearted, often anguished liberalism. It's also a great final choice because it reminds us that Davidson has "juice"—that he can bring a Hare play about U.S. politics, whose original cast was mostly composed of Brits playing Americans, to its U.S. premiere here, in L.A. This is a big fat deal; as with Ragtime, another quintessentially American piece that premiered in Toronto but had its American premiere here in L.A., we will be the first American audience to see it. I hope Hare is on hand to witness that.
Gordon has said he's not going to go for "lookalike" casting, but could I suggest Dakin Matthews as Dick Cheney? Andy Robinson as Rumsfeld? Francois Giroday as de Villepin? Geoff Elliot as George W.? Tony Blair... hmm... Doug Weston is probably too young. I'm trying to think primarily of actors with strong L.A. theatre resumes. I welcome your suggestions, dear readers.