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Fringe Festival 2008

They Report, You Decide

Cast and creators of “The Deciders” give their all to an energetic comedy musical sending up the Bush Administration and the Iraq War, but have a few holes in their satiric assault.

Paul Sadlik as Saddam Hussein.

“The Deciders,” in the 12th annual Fringe Festival in New York, a comedy musical with a few earnest or dramatic turns thrown in, was co-written by Casey Sheehan’s sister, Carly (Cindy Sheehan’s daughter), which isn’t touted right away in the show’s advertising.

The show takes some odd turns in its plotting at points to seek the laughs it does have -- like a conceit about George Bush wanting to re-install Saddam Hussein to get him out of the mess he made of Iraq; or another sub-plot supposing that the real Saddam died in 1999 of cancer and in his stead is one of his former doubles, who is really more of a writer and poet.

On realizing that the most earnest songs sung by the Cindy Sheehan character (played by Amber Carson), like “A Nation Rocked To Sleep,” with lines like “have you heard the sound of a mother crying?” are actually written by her own daughter, you feel like excusing their melodrama. But by the third such song (in a show that’s just over one hour), it does get a little repetitive.

There are a few funny moments in “The Deciders” that have the sort of satiric edge you find yourself wishing this show had throughout, such as John Stillwaggon as Dick Cheney singing “there’s money to be made/with the gun and the blade;” Paul Sadlik’s performance as Saddam Hussein throughout, especially in a couple songs showcasing him; and the pairing of Erik Hogan, in a credible Bush impersonation, with Carla Euphrates Kelly as Condi Rice, in a downright sexy, naughty number called “Miss Information.” Also, Stillwaggon as Cheney is quite funny throughout the show.

The comedy of “The Deciders” is aimed squarely at a mainstream Broadway audience, but to make it there probably could use some additional satirical scenes and a cutting back on some of the more lecture-like dramatic songs. Its creators might do well to research Tim Robbins’ Iraq war satirical play “Embedded” for a few pointers on how to do this. “The Deciders” has some entertainment value to it, but not all of it is cream rising to the top.

  

   

     

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