As a Fringe reviewer, it is always nice to read something in a program that acknowledges the challenges of creating the play in question. In the words of Charlie Fink, producer of Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started The Iraq War, talking about the original screenplay written by JT Allen:
“It immediately seemed to me that these outrageous events might be best told through the exaggerated magical reality of musical comedy, but even in this medium one has to account for the tricky fact that everyone knows the ending before the show begins.”
Reading that little blurb, part of Fink’s “Artistic Director’s Statement” that foregrounds the project, I immediately felt comfortable seeing this play. The biggest worry viewers have about seeing a dramatic representation of something so recently historical (think “The Social Network”) is that we already know the ending, and that someone has had the audacity to make us relive this series of unfortunate events—artistically.
I’m talking to you, Oliver Stone. The reason “W” was an utterly unwatchable movie was because not only did it fail to do anything creative with the Bush presidency, but it actually cashed in on the one thing we (anti-Bush people) begrudgingly accepted as the only thing positive about the Bush Administration: the jokes. It is a terrible thing that part of the Bush Administration’s legacy will be its widespread implementation of torture, and how Stone’s movie basically perpetuated that same principle upon its viewers. Yes, I just went there.
In short, Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started The Iraq War was everything “W” was not. It is hilarious, creative, clever, and, dare I say, inspiring. Perhaps the generic choice of a musical comedy is the key ingredient, but this dish was prepared right from start to finish.
The songs were LOL funny. My personal favorite was “It’s All Good,” a witty lyric indicative of the Administration’s refusal to worry, or even second-guess itself, at seemingly any point in this faux evidence-gathering stage that led to the Iraq War. But I think I just liked this song the most because of its repetition of the word “chillax,” which is just so funny because it actually is a good way of qualifying the CIA’s attitude.
The point is, all of the songs are thoroughly produced and passionately sung. The entire cast was talented and seemed truly excited about this play. Musically, there is something here for everyone.
Viewers should note that this is not a play about the usual suspects: we only hear from Bush in short audio spurts of his actual speeches. The character that most closely embodies the Bush figureheads is David Kay (Harry A. Winter), the weapons inspector in Iraq who originally headed the Iraq Survey Group that this play chronicles. Winter delivers a knockout performance here, and I was especially impressed by his ability to seem wonderfully naïve and out of touch while also being in control, as he functions as a sort of elder statesman to a cast of characters that was otherwise young, which was a surprising but interesting choice.
Why young? Why not? These characters were no more naïve and ignorant than a government willing to fabricate a story to send us to a war we didn’t need. The script’s tendency towards the catchy, “hip” rhetoric of today’s youth was appropriate because that’s exactly the same way a government sells a war to the public: by repeating BS words and phrases enough so that everyone just shuts up and listens to them. By creating, what this play repeats in its title song, “hystorical fiction.”
For Baghdaddy is hystorical fiction, after all, and since it’s the Bush Administration, that word is and should be spelled wrong in the program. But it is hysterical fiction too. This play is a can’t-miss for anyone still bitter from the Bush Administration and not sure what to do about it, which is to say, almost everyone.