One of the most technically accomplished and engaging of the recent spate of iso-performances, the musical-satiric Who’s Your Baghdaddy? plays persuasively in the online space.
After all, much of the show’s plot – which delves into the intelligence and strategic thinking that propelled the United States into the invasion of Iraq – revolves around assumptions and decisions made by people working in isolation with different motives, incompatible agendas and in this case, issues with translation.
Credibility and reliability are different things? Who knew?
Written by Marshall Pailet and A.D. Penedo, the show begins with the convening of an AA-style support group for people struggling to come to terms with their role in the creation of the Iraq War.
Among them are CIA analysts Berry and Jerry (Laura Murphy and Adam Rennie), their boss Tyler (Phillip Lowe), analyst Martin (Doug Hansell), a keen young German security agency staffer Richart (Matthew Predny) and “Curveball” (Troy Sussman), an Iraqi asylum seeker claiming first-hand knowledge of a fleet of mobile germ warfare labs mounted on trucks.
The show then transports us to April 2001, back to that idyllic time when the closest thing to tragedy America could point toward was the cancellation of Baywatch. Act II shifts us forward in time just a few months, to September 11 2001 and its aftermath.
Directed by Neil Gooding, this production is staged in a large house with the cast dispersed and isolated, one per room. Each performs straight to camera, with the feeds vision-mixed and streamed live. Visually and sonically, it’s a very sophisticated piece of work, several orders of magnitude more impressive than the Celebrity Squares of a Zoom-streamed production.
Individual frames are juxtaposed and whisked around the screen to create the necessary sense of connection between characters. Props are passed as though from hand to hand. Ensemble numbers are cleverly choreographed on the screen.
The performances are excellent throughout and quickly dissolve any sense of physical separation between the performers. Murphy and Rennie shine hard as the young CIA analysts (their whiter-than-white rap number “Berry and the Bad Boy” is an early highlight) and the wide-eyed Predny is excellent as the ambitious yet utterly out-of-his-depth Richart. Blake Erickson and Katrina Rettalick provide an entertaining pop-up gallery of support roles.
Watched on a big screen, with headphones, it’s easy to be fully immersed. If live-streamed musicals can be made this entertaining, then conventionally staged productions had better step up when the lockdown of our theatres ends.