The biggest problem with Theater Oobleck’s “The Strangerer” is not what it is—part political satire, part agitprop drama, part debate mockumentary—but that it is simply too much of the same thing going on for too long. Playwright Mickle Maher’s ninety-minute, three-character play eerily recreates the 2004 Bush/Kerry presidential debate but adds an inspired twist influenced by Camus’ “The Stranger”— Bush and Kerry debate the manner in which the senseless murder of moderator Jim Lehrer is to take place. On paper it sounds great but in performance—despite flawless and hilarious turns by Guy Massey, Mickle Maher and Colm O’Reilly as Bush, Kerry and Lehrer, respectively—it makes for a dramatically static evening that pummels you to death with its prolixity. It’s irritating, really—the more the verbal Bushisms and narrative non-sequiturs are piled on, the more I felt intellectually deficient when unable to connect them to some higher meaning or political symbolism. And since I don’t have a PhD in French philosophy and haven’t read “The Stranger” since high school, I’m assuming there might have been a staggering amount of satisfyingly witty and clever allusions to Camus that went right over my head. But if you’re going to cross-fertilize politics and philosophy for a one-joke play, isn’t it the writer’s responsibility to ensure that both elements are accessible in equal measure for the joke to have full resonance? Maybe the real joke is on the intelligentsia and critics like me for wanting to make more out of this than it is. After all, if we can’t find the gumption to walk out on pretentious “art” that makes little sense, what hope is there that we’ll take the action necessary to help impeach a president who makes no sense? This short remount at Links Hall follows a successful run at the Chopin that garnered critical accolades so maybe if you go you’ll like it. Strangerer things have happened. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
This production is now closed.