'Hillary Agonistes'


Hillary Clinton doesn't realize how lucky she is going to be by not becoming the next president (probably).

In "Hillary Agonistes," playwright Nick Salamone imagines a scenario in which Hillary (Priscilla Barnes) wins the presidency only to find herself in a doomsday predicament second to none. Before the play is over, 65 million people have vanished into thin air, Chelsea Clinton is blown to bits and the Mideast is about to explode in nuclear war. And that doesn't include having to listen to the Antichrist — wearing a burqa and gas mask —constantly quote scripture about the horrors of Armageddon.

The play apparently was written under the impression that Hillary was a shoo-in to become the next president. In this sense, Salamone treats her respectfully — if a bit densely — using her presence to explore various political, cultural and especially religious ideas relevant to the current world situation. This is an ambitious goal bearing only mixed results.

Shortly after Hillary takes office, she learns that 65 million people — including Bill — have suddenly disappeared all around the globe. No one has a clue what happened to them, and in desperation, Hillary decides to hold the rapture responsible rather than alien abduction. This leads to a series of discursive encounters in the Oval Office with Pat Robertson (playwright Salamone), a cardinal of the church (Salamone), Stephen Hawking (Salamone) and Chelsea (Rebecca Metz), who recently has converted to Islam. And let's not forget the Antichrist (Metz), who always is lurking in the shadows.

Apparently, Hillary learns valuable lessons from these encounters, which can be summarized as: Don't make matters worse than they already are by dragging Christian fundamentalism into the argument, don't hold America blameless for the mess we're in and don't be certain about anything.

Considering that the characters we meet are largely stereotypes or pale imitations of the real thing, the arguments we hear are not terribly clear, convincing or interesting. The cardinal — with a bow to Edward Albee — comes off best as he has a touch of sophistication and intellect the others seem to lack. This includes Hillary, who is smarter than the character we meet. Jean Gilpin appears as Morag, Hillary's crusty Scottish chief of staff. Jon Lawrence Rivera directs. (partialdiff)
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