David Hare’s dramatic depiction of the Bush administration’s buildup to the war in Iraq is comic, in a dark sort of way, but surely depressing, and often maddening. Here we have laid out in minute detail the circumstances that led to the bombing and occupation of Iraq. Hare has painstakingly used the public record, along with private sources, to document the mind-boggling behind-the-scenes machinations. We watch as the administration argues, rationalizes, cajoles, and ultimately crushes all semblance of dissent not only in the opposition but ultimately its own soul. A speech by a Palestinian academic is the moral and philosophical heart of the play, passionately pointing out a double standard in which a UN resolution legitimizing war on Iraq has to be enforced, but a resolution demanding Israel withdraw to its pre-1967 borders is to be ignored.
Featuring a bewildering cast of 16, portraying dozens of characters, Stuff Happens is gracefully directed by Daniel Sullivan, the actors floating across a stage filled only with executive office chairs as props. As is stated often, power need not negotiate and never truly does, most of the administration’s actions being decidedly and purposely unilateral. This drama looks down the rabbit hole that is Realpolitik.
The title derives from a Donald Rumsfeld retort when asked by reporters to respond to the looting and pillage of Baghdad after the invasion. “Stuff happens,” Rumsfeld says. After two and a half hours of watching Hare’s Bush Administration at work, considering the havoc it has wrought, one can only agree, “It sure does.”