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Bloodsucking corporate interests on the prowl / Mime Troupe takes a bite out of Dubya
Robert Hurwitt, Chronicle Theater Critic
July 06, 2001

Clapping Man Off Seat"The last president may have felt the nation's pain," the presidential figurehead drawls to the press with a good ol' boy grin, "but this president promises to be responsible for it." Perhaps so, and this easygoing, vocabulary- mangling president puts up a good show of being in charge. But the amiably soft-spoken and unobtrusive vice president leaves little room for doubt about who's really running things in the White House.

Curtain Call
San Francisco Mime Troupe's "1600 Transylvania Avenue" tells the story of George W. Bush in the form of a "Dracula"-style chiller. Chronicle photo by John O'Hara

Yes, the Republicans are back in the Oval Office, and that's good news for the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Energized by the resurgent right -- not to mention the court-sanctioned theft of an election and the curious charade of power at the top -- the inexhaustible purveyors of agitprop musical comedy have responded with their sharpest, funniest and most exhilarating show in years.

Written by Michael Gene Sullivan (who also directed) and Ellen Callas -- with snappy songs by musical director Jason Sherbundy (music) and Bruce Barthol (lyrics) -- "1600 Transylvania Avenue" opened Wednesday afternoon in Dolores Park for a few thousand enthusiasts at the opening of the Mime Troupe's 40th season of free shows in Bay Area parks. ("Transylvania" plays Dolores Park again tomorrow and Sunday, moving to Berkeley's Cedar Rose Park next weekend.)

Sullivan and Callas, increasingly the Mime Troupe's primary writers -- now working without the usual aid of longtime company playwright Joan Holden, who retired last year -- waste little time on the more obvious satirical targets of the Baby Bush administration. There are quips aplenty about George W.'s syntax and vocabulary ("I am a compassionate conservinator"), stolen elections, arsenic and the universal panacea of "my big ol' tax cut." But the compact script is focused on bigger issues.

One is the corporate takeover of America, with former CEOs occupying the top posts in the executive branch for the first time, framed as a quick "Dracula"-style comic chiller. The "King of the Bloodsuckers" is in the White House (we know who, well before the heroic "Nosferatologists" figure it out). Privatization of social programs and giveaways of public resources are running rampant. Reporters who ask tough questions about presidential corporate cronyism disappear in vampire attacks.

Our innocent, vulnerable heroine, Shamina Jones (a sparkling, deftly comic Velina Brown), has invented an energy-saving device that turns off TV sets whenever an ad comes on, making her an obvious target of the vampire minions. She's stalked by an emotionally torn reporter turned White House agent (an engaging Conrad Cimarra) and by her former partner, Mime Troupe newcomer Anastasia Coon as a hilariously evil vamp who keeps coming back from the dead - - in ever more outlandishly impaled costumes by Keiko Shimosato.

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