BEATING THE BUSHES by Steven Bush with Richard Payne, performed by Bush. Presented by Happy Trails in association with Factory Theatre at the Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). Runs to May 18, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $14-$20, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-9971. Rating: NN
Riffing on the possibilities of a blood link between his ancestors and those of the father-and-son Georges - ruling dynasts south of the border - writer/performer Steven Bush plays with conspiracy theories, angrily denounces self-serving hypocrites and meditates on the links between oil, drugs and those in power.I wish the result were less statistic-filled spot-the-big-bad-Bushes lecture.
It starts well, with Bush rummaging through his mother's basement and turning up mementos and memories of growing up in the States. There's an emotional, dramatic link between what we see and hear, including the shift from war-toy-loving boy to late-60s anti-war militant.
Over two hours later, in the work's last few minutes, Bush looks at his hands, compares them to his dead mother's and ruminates on how a young, emotionally shattered Dubya might become human by feeling the pain of others.
In between, there's some ineffective film noir parody, a second-act slide lecture that lacks the skill of The Noam Chomsky Lectures, some ritual exorcising and conjuring and an uneven parody of 17th-century drama that reveals that big business is in bed with politicians.
This overlong piece doesn't so much play to as harangue its audience. And that audience, truth be told, is on Bush's side before the lights go down.
Some of the writing is clever, and Bush himself, especially in the personal moments, can be an engaging performer. But a rambling, unevenly paced show about "how to save the planet and the family name" needs pruning and shaping before this Bush can take dramatic root.