Theater Review: You're Welcome, America

He has left the White House -- a speck disappearing over the horizon in an official whirlybird -- but George W. Bush remains fuel for satire, especially in the adroit hands of comedian and film star Will Ferrell.

Put simply, "You're Welcome, America. A Final Night with George W. Bush," Ferrell's one-man roast of the 43rd president, is hilarious. Even if you are among the shrinking number who thinks Bush II was the apogee of American leadership, you're bound to chuckle at some point.

Aptly enough, the 90-minute show begins with the din of an unseen hovering helicopter, a cloud of dust and Ferrell/Bush being lowered to the stage at the end of a cable, sitting in the lap of a Marine.

Once onstage, on a set that's a simplification of the Oval Office (big desk, big leather armchair, big red phone on a cylindrical stand), the gray-haired actor assumes the gunslinger swagger and Texas drawl that became the president's hallmarks and that Ferrell shaped to perfection on "Saturday Night Live" when Bush first took office.

Ferrell's Dubya is the one that we always suspected was lurking behind the man's moralizing, take-no-prisoners attitude. He's a bit crude, a bit sexy. He's hanging out and relishing every minute of it. "I feel as free as balls in boxers," he tells the audience. Is that a shot of his penis projected on the back wall? Not sure? Well, let's see it again, then. "That's shock and awe" for ya.

Ferrell, who wrote the material and is directed by longtime collaborator Adam McKay, riffs on Bush's supposed love for his ranch in Crawford, Texas (a Karl Rove ploy to make the guy appear folksy). He misses his cabinet, particularly -- you guessed it -- Condoleezza Rice.

"What we had was something special," says a mournful Bush, and onto the stage comes the dazzling Pia Glenn, all short red suit and long legs, and without saying a word, she gyrates up a storm in front of a besotted George W. -- and a besotted Secret Service operative, played by Patrick Ferrell with a wonderful mixture of sexual yearning and self-enforced restraint.

It's not all top-notch. A brief bit when Bush gets a phone call from "Brownie," the FEMA director who flubbed Hurricane Katrina big-time, is weak writing, and Ferrell doesn't even seem to like the routine very much.

But overall this is a show to make one laugh in the midst of a recession, and the long line at the boxoffice promises a sold-out trip. Thank you, Will Ferrell.

Venue: Cort Theatre, New York (Through March 15)
Playwright-performer: Will Ferrell
With: Patrick Ferrell, Michael Delaney, Pia Glenn, Adam Mucci
Director: Adam McKay
Setr designer: Eugene Lee
Costume designer: Tom Broecker
Lighting designer: Brian MacDevitt
Sound designer: Peter Fitzgerald
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