Improv Pair Plays Out Forum Fantasy

    Imagine being in a medium-sized theater with some 100 others, facing the incumbent President George W. Bush and Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at two podiums on a stage in front of you. Now imagine they are taking unscreened questions from anyone raising his or her hand. Best of all, you’ve only paid about 30 bucks to get here.

    Courtesy of Miracle Theatre
    Gross National Product duo John Simmons and Christine Thompson, playing George W. Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton, lead an improvisational debate in their “Son of a Bush.”

    The catch is that the political figures aren’t real — they are impersonators John Simmons and Christine Thompson, together known as the Gross National Product, who wrote and performed a traveling show called “Son of a Bush.” Truth be told, the performance is nothing spectacular — it’s a hit or miss series of comedy sketches, largely improvised, sometimes sung and usually involving some degree of audience participation.

    It’s difficult to judge an improvised show, as its success often varies with the crowd — at one point, an audience member claimed she didn’t have a name, stalling the entire sketch — but nonetheless, it’s obvious GNP aren’t quite the cast of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” With its musical interludes and improv games taken straight from the show, GNP strives to be the political counter to Wayne Brady, but ends up looking more like the less-funny Drew Carey.

    Still, the open debate between Bush and she-Clinton was enough to stir thought long after the short-lasting effect of the puns and one-liners. The possibility of a two-sided exchange of ideas between civilians and politicians (often described by theorists as essential to the democratic process) is increasingly rare. So rare, apparently, that the closest the average Joe can get to discussing issues that affect social change is to watch a comedy sketch show with comedians dressed as political figures. And in this dark audience, listening to the questions alone was a legitimate cause for reflection.

    “Where’s Osama?” “Have you started drinking again?” “When are you going to close the border?” The crowd suspended their disbelief to engage in the rarely played-out fantasy of asking the president of the United States a question.

    So if you don’t see yourself attending a $100,000-a-head presidential banquet anytime soon, throw down the ticket price to see “Son of a Bush” and ask the impersonators. The best plan: Prepare questions, go into the Miracle Theatre in Old Town armed and ready to make a splash, rile the collective political conscience and get a piece of interesting political discourse that nowadays is relegated to comedy sideshows.

    “Son of a Bush” plays through Nov. 12 at the Miracle Theatre in Old Town. Tickets are $15.

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