Tony Kushner made his name in the early 1990’s with the audacious AIDS era epic Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. It was long, unforgettable – with its flights of fancy and sense of outrage – and garnered the playwright a batch of well-deserved awards.
This latest offering consists of five self-contained one-act plays, performed with verve (perhaps a bit too much) by the all-American cast from the Guthrie Theater under the direction of Tony Taccone.
Kushner’s political conscience is still very much in evidence, but he’s also in playful mode in these imagined scenarios.
In Flip Flop Fly!, the deposed Queen of Albania and a perpetually smiling former beauty queen turned entertainer, both dead, meet on the moon and end up dancing in unison.
Terminating or Sonnet LXXV or “Lass Meine Schmerzen Nicht Verloren Sein” or Ambivalence (the title is almost a play in itself – Kushner is not known for his brevity) and Dr Arnold A Hutschnecker in Paradise both feature psychotherapists. Hutschnecker, a specialist in psychosomatic illnesses, was Richard Nixon’s shrink and J.C. Cutler contorts himself into a frenzy of twitches as, in a neat bit of countertransference, he develops the former US president’s physical ticks.
East Code Ode to Howard Jarvis: a little teleplay in tiny monologues is a clever idea but it goes on far too long in its celebration of an absurd tax avoidance scam which flustered the revenue with claims from “non resident, non-immigrant aliens”. Jim Lichtscheidl delivers a single-handed tour de force, but we get the point way before the welcome interval.
Most effective of all, Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall be Unhappy sees former First Lady Laura Bush reading Dostoyevsky to the invisible pyjama-clad ghosts of innocent Iraqi children as her conscience starts to trouble her more and more. It’s touching and thought-provoking, but illustrates, yet again, that Kushner never knows when enough is enough.
Tricycle, Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR
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Until 25th September
£10 – £20
Review: Louise Kingsley