nytheatre.com review by Tim Cusack
I was online, about to write this review, when one of the hottest items
on the toy market caught my attention: the Elite Force Aviator: George
W. Bush―U.S. President and Naval Aviator 12" Action Figure. This
purports to be an exact replica of the infamous fighter pilot get-up Mr.
President wore when he “landed” the jet on that aircraft carrier on May
1 of this year. I think Thaddeus Phillips should immediately begin
negotiations with this doll for any future productions of his Henry 5,
a very loose adaptation of the Shakespeare play that was recently
produced in Central Park. Phillips’ version of the history play features
him playing all of the characters while manipulating dozens of action
figures, toy soldiers, and doll houses. Video, live cameras,
projections, and Perrier bottles (representing the French court) also
come into play in the highly imaginative mise-en-sc�ne (the most
sophisticated I’ve seen in this year’s FringeNYC). George II would make
an excellent addition to the cast since Phillips has slyly changed all
references to "England" in the original text to "America" and especially
because on the video that accompanies the battle scenes, Baghad serves
as a stand-in for Paris.
August 15, 2003
This is an admirably ambitious undertaking, which unfortunately doesn’t entirely work. The director, Tatiana Mallarino, hasn’t quite figured out all of the transitions, and there are too many moments of awkward stage management that Phillips’ relaxed performance style—he acknowledges our presence from the very first moments—doesn’t quite justify. There are problems, too, with the script. It didn’t seem to me that Phillips had gotten the mix of Shakespeare and his own material quite right. He either needs more Shakespeare to make the story clearer (I was at times completely lost, not being familiar with the play), or more of his own politicized commentary to make the social critique stronger. Even though my attention wandered in spots, I was mesmerized as Phillips creepily set up an entire squadron of toy soldiers while George C. Scott’s famous speech to the troops in Patton played on the monitors.
I hope Phillips and Mallarino keep working on this. If the polls for next year’s presidential race are any indication, the piece is in no danger of dating any time soon.