The show—which, in terms of generating publicity and buzz in theatre circles this spring, is second only to the Julia Roberts' Three Days of Rain—recently extended its run by four weeks to May 28. The initial run recently sold out.
The action begins with the first days of the Bush administation, when the hawkish Vice-President Dick Cheney (Zach Grenier) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield (Jeffrey DeMunn) begin to plan military action against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The tragic events of Sept. 11 speed along what Hare's depicts as The White House's inevitable march to war.
Many voices, both pro and con, are heard along the way. Among them: an angry journalist who can't understand why his colleagues don't see the clear good of dictator Hussein's removal; a Palestinian woman who can see world events only through the prism of her people's welfare; a man who answers the argument that America radically changed after 9/11 with the answer "Yes, it got stupider"; French foreign minister Dominique De Villipin, who questions U.S. motives and craftily sets up a series of roadblocks to a U.N. resolution approving military action; weapons inspector Hans Blix, who responds to U.S. bullying with bemused statements of ethical principles; Defense offical Paul Wolfowitz who believes the aftermath of the war will pay for itself; Bush himself, who thinks God wanted him to wage war against Afghanistan and Iraq; and an Iraqi exile who wonders why figures on Iraqi deaths are never released or reported.
The two most vital voices, however, are those of Blair and Powell, who Hare has painted as the twin flawed heros of the action. The British politician is depicted as idealistic and sincere, but naive in his faith that Bush is dealing with him in good faith. Powell, meanwhile, is shown as the only member of Bush's cabinet to speak a gospel of caution and political diplomacy, culminated in a fiery speech which closes act one. The play has run in separate stagings in London and the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
The Public cast also features George Bartenieff as Hans Blix and Jack Straw; Glenn Fleshler as George Tenet; Lameece Issaq as a Palestinian Academic; Ken Marks as David Manning and Michael Gerson; David Pittu as Paul Wolfowitz and Sir Richard Dearlove; Gloria Reuben as Condoleezza Rice; Thomas Schall as Alastair Campbell and Jeremy Greenstock; Armand Schultz as Jonathan Powell and Robin Cook; Robert Sella as an Angry Journalist and Dominique De Villepin; Brenda Wehle as a New Labour Politician and Laura Bush; and Waleed F. Zuaiter as an Iraqi Exile and Trevor Mac.
The proscenium Newman Theater at the Public complex has been reconfigured into an arena-style setup for the production, with the audience viewing the action from two sides. The action is staged on a bare playing space, adorned only by a collection of boardroom-style chairs, which are rolled into a series of configurations to indicate various locales (The White House, Camp David, the U.N.).
Stuff Happens started life at Britain's National Theatre with Alex Jennings as George Bush, directed by Nicholas Hytner.
The title is taken from a phrase used by Donald Rumsfeld when grilled by reporters about the widespread public violence that overtook Iraq following the American invasion in 2003. At the same press conference, he said "Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." Rumsfield's speech begins the play.