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Right Notes, Wrong Script

Melissa Rauch entertains with Jenna Bush, but doesn't take the parody much further.

Starring in the title (and only) role of “The Miss Education of Jenna Bush,” Melissa Rauch hits all the right notes in her characterization in a manner that would fit right in if she was called on to play this part on Saturday Night Live.

The problem is, the script she co-wrote with Winston Beigel for this comedy, now being performed as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, too often goes for the obvious jokes heard very often about Jenna Bush, and only on an occasion or two successfully reaches toward a more sophisticated satire.

The central situation of the comedy is Jenna Bush, post-college, getting ready for her first day as a fourth-grade teacher, even though she hasn’t seemed to have learned very much at any point in her schooling. The play is best when it attributes George W. Bush’s actions or speeches to something Jenna might have done or said, sending up its main character beyond just her scattered idiocies.

There is also a payoff that comes from the musical ringtones on Jenna’s cellphone during the course of the 90-minute show, each of which signifies a different caller.

Beyond these points, however, the writing could benefit from collaboration, perhaps from a group of Saturday Night Live writers or the like, to focus and sharpen the parody. The end result is satire-lite, because it spends more time on Jenna’s tics like mispronunciations reminiscent of her father, jokes about Jenna’s constant drinking and jokes about her lack of the most basic knowledge about things.

Rauch and Beigel could do well to build on the sharper bits of satire they have here and re-write the show with more moments like those, especially with a piece like this that is poised to make the leap from Fringe favorite to full-time show.

The Miss Education of Jenna Bush has two more performances in the Fringe Festival on August 25 and 26. 



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