It's also in the best Mime Troupe tradition. "Veronique" is a broad but
pointed satire on the national political situation in the company's standard
musical comedy format (like a less well-crafted "Urinetown" with more of an
The action takes place in the near future. Being under threat has become
standard operating procedure in America, though the threat the troupe
perceives is not the same as that touted by the current administration. Having
already "liberated" Iraq, Syria, Venezuela and France, the White House ("It's
up to us to save the world from itself") is searching for a new imminent
threat to American liberties to shore up the Cheney-Rice ticket's chances in
the 2008 presidential election.
In a stirring "Superior People" duet, rife with sexual undertones, Dick
Cheney and Condoleezza Rice (Mime Troupe veterans Ed Holmes and Velina Brown)
team up and choose the next target: Canada. As the by-now monolithic national
media starts promoting the newest war -- side panels in the set converting
into TVs -- the distraught Canadian prime minister (Keiko Shimosato) and
General Preston (Holmes) choose a top agent to send south of the border to
derail the war effort -- Veronique (Brown) of the Mounties.
In a script -- by troupe mainstays Michael Gene Sullivan and Bruce Barthol
(with help from Ellen Callas) -- that didn't seem fully developed Friday, the
plot follows Veronique as she's pursued by super-patriot Zeke (Conrad Cimarra)
and agents of the SS-like Homeland Security System (HSS, not coincidentally).
With the aid of a resourceful librarian (Shimosato) and a homeless war veteran
(Holmes), Veronique infiltrates Cheney's undisclosed location (hereby
disclosed). Everything hinges on a magical maple leaf, a secret book of
librarian lore and Veronique's striking resemblance to Rice.
The story's still a bit thin, and perhaps too full of extraneous characters
-- though some, like the family of fundamentalists heading for the Lambs of
Jesus Small Arms Jamboree, are hilarious. As funny as it is, it could use more
running gags, and some of those it has haven't been honed yet. Sullivan, who
also directed, hasn't pulled the show together with the standard Mime Troupe
sharp timing evident in the interchanges between Brown and Holmes or Shimosato.
But it was clear Friday that "Veronique" wasn't finished. The mountain-
scape set -- a complex design (by Cimarra) of rotating panels, pop-up signs
and trapdoors (some of which malfunctioned) -- was being put together for the
first time as the audience gathered. The opening was delayed almost an hour as
the actors waited for last-minute costumes (bright cartoon designs by Huy
Tran) to be delivered (meaning they'd had no chance to rehearse the many fast
The songs are terrific. Composed by musical director Jason Sherbundy
(keyboard player in the adept accompanying trio), with typically sharp lyrics
by Barthol, they set the standard the rest of "Veronique" should reach as it
makes its way around Bay Area parks this summer.
Holmes' homeless vet is a woebegone delight, growling an urban-blues "A
Shot and a Beer" and Cimarra's Zeke shines in the patriotic rocker "Team
Player." Bekka Fink, Christian Cagigal and Michael Carreiro -- who do yeoman
work in many small parts -- light up the park as the fundamentalist family in
an energetic, rousing hymn, "God's Little Warriors." Brown's powerful blues
voice infuses the plaintive "Canada Adieu" with fervent mock melodrama.
Brown and Holmes anchor the show, with Holmes a wonderfully hissable
autocratic villain in his by-now well-established Cheney role. Brown deftly
distinguishes between her ambitious, troubled Rice and her dedicated but
apprehensive -- and out-of-her-depth -- Mountie, gracing Veronique with comic
"aw jeez" homages to Frances McDormand in "Fargo." Shimosato provides unerring
support with a quick, crisp performance as the librarian.
It isn't just about foreign policy. The satire hits everything from the
erosion of civil liberties to the rape of the environment, political cronyism,
privatization of public services and, of course, George W. Bush ("Maybe I
shoulda gone AWOL, done some coke, watched out for myself," Holmes'
incarcerated veteran muses; "maybe then I'd be in the White House"). But
through foreign policy, the Mime Troupe finds telling comparisons with our
democratic neighbor to the north.