[article originally published at HowlRound, March 3, 2015.]
Playwright Sean Cunningham has worked on and off since 2009 with songwriter Michael Friedman, director Alex Timbers, and a raft of designers on a piece of early 20th century meets early 21st century apologia political mashup theater about the legacy of Herbert Hoover as seen through the lens of Elvis Presley. The result is Here’s Hoover! The Historic Herbert Hoover 2014 Comeback Special, which recently concluded a brief run in New York City. And Herbert Hoover’s return, replete with leather, works like gangbusters.
Five years ago these busy men began to consider the theatrical possibilities in the career of American president Herbert Hoover, a man with conservative Republican instincts who had the bad fortune to preside over the initial years of what deepened into the Great Depression. Timbers wondered what they would find if they looked at this profoundly uncharismatic guy through the frame of the famous 1968 Elvis Presley television “comeback” special.
The differences between the song-and-dance parties of Rocky on Broadway, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and Here Lies Love—all shows created by members of this team—and Here’s Hoover! are arguably profound. But while the scale of the Abrons Arts Center is far from a Broadway venue, the same sensibilities are tapped to tell a story through humor, projections, and delicious anachronisms. Major figures from American history are interpreted through the style of one of the most charismatic pop performers of all time. In Here’s Hoover!, Depression-era conservative Herbert Hoover attempts to reclaim his legacy and perhaps run again. (Yes, Hoover is dead—suspend your disbelief.)
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© Martha Wade Steketee (March 3, 2015)