On November 6, 1963, 17-year-old Laura Welch (future First Lady Laura Bush) was driving down a dark road on her way to the movies when she failed to heed a stop sign, causing a car accident that would take the life of her friend and high school classmate.
Maybe she was an inexperienced driver with poor vision who was distracted by chatting with her friend in the passenger seat. Or maybe, just maybe, it was something more nefarious . . .
Ian Allen’s Laura Bush Killed a Guy is a darkly hilarious, and at times deeply touching, imagining of the private woman behind the public figure of the former First Lady. Through three acts – Perdition, Sedition and Contrition – Mrs. Bush herself (Lisa Hodsoll) walks you through the major events of her life from her Texas childhood, to her tenure in the White House, to the events of that fateful night in 1963. The script fluctuates seamlessly, and to great comic effect, between the definitely true, the absolutely fictional and the well, to be honest, I don’t know if it’s true or not.
Because, how well do we really know Laura Bush? Always poised and charming in an unassuming way, Bush appeared to embody the idea of a “First Lady” rather than redefining the office to match her own personality. Especially in comparison with her predecessor and successor, Laura was in the background. She was a bit, as it says in the script, “forgettable.”
Allen cleverly uses her lower profile to his advantage to play with the idea of how collective impressions of a public figure are shaped. Why do the first Google search results on Laura Bush include a recipe for “Cowboy Cookies” and articles about how she “killed a guy”? Is she the ultimate proper southern “good girl”, or could it be that she is a cold-blooded murderer? Or, is the truth of Mrs. Bush neither genteel nor scandalous, but something much more complex and human?
Laura Bush Killed a Guy
closes June 4, 2017
Details and tickets
As played by Lisa Hodsoll, the character of Laura Bush is anything but forgettable. Perfectly coifed in her Jackie Kennedy-esque white suit (costumer Rhonda Key) and tasteful matte lipstick. With a spot-on Southern accent, graceful poise, and a commanding presence, Hodsoll convincingly embodies both the public Mrs. Bush we know and Allen’s sassier fictional version. She swings between B movie camp, sarcastic humor and emotional depth with pitch perfect timing, while staying grounded in realism. And, she’s hilarious. I haven’t laughed this hard in a play in a long time.
As you might expect in a comedy about Laura Bush, Allen’s script takes some memorable political potshots at Dubya’s administration as well as the current one. (Laura’s pointed comment about her husband’s administration “If you could have it back today, wouldn’t you?” produced the biggest laugh of the show.) The laughs are balanced out with unexpected moments of emotional depth – the events of 9/11, issues with infertility and the sincere love she has for her husband among them.
I walked away from Laura Bush Killed a Guy wanting to know more about Laura Bush– the real woman, not the public persona or Allen’s fictionalized version. Somewhere along the way this “forgotten” first lady became quite unforgettable.
Laura Bush Killed a Guy by Ian Allen. Directed by John Vreeke. Performed by Lisa Hodsoll. Set design by Kim Deane. Lighting and projection design by David C. Ghatan. Costume design by Rhonda Key. Sound design by Lucas Zarwell. Stage managed by Laura Schlachtmeyer. Produced by The Klunch. Reviewed by Amy Couchoud.