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Bush vote gives play a big push

President's second term spurs interest in prod'ns

Tony Kushner’s Laura Bush play, aka “Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy,” was the centerpiece entertainment at several political fund-raisers this autumn. At one such benefit, a Broadway bigwig was heard to say, “It will be too bad if George W. Bush loses. This play will have no future.”

Too bad, indeed. But Kushner’s unfinished Bush play looks to have better legs than the first lady herself.

Post-election, Kushner says: “A couple of weeks ago I had more or less decided to keep working on ‘Only We’ regardless of the outcome of the election. I’m taking it off the fund-raiser/benefit/rally circuit so that I can do what I need to do to make it a play.”

The play has plenty of company.

David Lieberman booked the touring production of Tim Robbins’ “Embedded” this season. “We had intended to retire it but interest has been re-energized by Bush’s re-election, especially by European presenters,” he says.

As artistic director of New York Theater Workshop, James Nicola has presented recent readings of both the Kushner play and David Hare’s “Stuff Happens,” about the war in Iraq. And he looks forward to offering full productions in the near future, not that it will be easy.

“We don’t have the money to mount ‘Stuff Happens’ now,” he says, “not that it will dampen the attempt.” As for other theaters’ reluctance to stage the Hare play, he mentions its large ensemble of 15 to 22 actors. But there are, unfortunately, other reasons.

“Theaters might be concerned about offending constituents or board members. Also, the NAACP being challenged on its tax-exempt status is a very ominous thing for all of us,” says Nicola.

The New School U. opens Sam Shepard’s Bush play “The God of Hell” on Nov. 16. “Perhaps universities are the last threshold to have controversial ideas,” says Evangeline Morphos, special adviser to the school’s provost.

Shepard reportedly did not have an easy time getting his play produced in Gotham. Then again, he was working within a small window. “Sam very much wanted it up and running before the election,” says Morphos, who kicked off previews just before Nov. 2.

While she acknowledges the election’s outcome sparks interest in the play, Morphos doesn’t miss a beat to add, “There is not a remote particle of me that wanted Bush to win.”

John Ashcroft’s resignation has goosed Greg Kotis to make minor changes in his play “Eat the Taste,” which details the attorney general’s search for a new job in the world of entertainment. It opened Oct. 3 Off Broadway. Post-election, Kotis has found auds laugh harder, much to his surprise.

“I didn’t think of the play lasting beyond the election. I thought it was perishable, and belonged to this graduating class of plays that were written for the fall. Now we’ll see.”

“Eat the Taste” producer Scott Morfee sees the chance to really make B.O. hay.

“We should invite Ashcroft to come to town to see the play,” says Morfee, “and maybe we’ll create a show for him.”

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