43 Plays for 43 Presidents

A collection of short plays about every single leader of the U.S., some sharp, some not

There are numerous problems inherent in writing short plays about every single president of the United States and compressing them into one night of theater. For the great, notorious, and prolific leaders in this production, a three-minute play becomes a recitation of acts passed and deeds done. For the obscure and forgettable ones (the majority, unfortunately), the short vignettes feel, as their terms in office suggest, unremarkable. The local cast of five (highlighted by the excellent dry humor of Joshua Pollock) employs endless performance styles for each president's moment in the spotlight. Lincoln speaks by candlelight, Madison with large cue cards, (Chester) Arthur via a game show; others are conveyed by stabbing balloons, hosting roasts, and eating Wonder Bread. For Kennedy, it's simply television footage offering tearful accounts of his assassination. Presidentsworks as a lively (if hurried) historical summary of our country as told through those we popularly elected — and the few we didn't. (In case you're wondering, George W. Bush's segment has him in a blindfold with a baseball bat.) The assemblage doesn't result in a night of emotionally connected theater, but this doesn't mean the show wouldn't be a smash hit in history classrooms. Nathaniel Eaton

Details

Through Jan. 27 at Impact Theatre, 1834 Euclid (at Hearst, under LaVal's Subterranean Pizza), Berkeley. Tickets are $15-35; call (510) 499-0356 or visit www.randt.org.

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