- js reader version
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by Mark Gabrish Conlan/Zenger's Newsmagazine
Wednesday, May. 28, 2008 at 2:19 AM
firstname.lastname@example.org (619) 688-1886 P.O. Box 50134, San Diego, CA 92165
Don't be put off by the title of JD Boucharde's one-man show, "Happy Songs About the War," through June 4 at the Compass Theatre in San Diego. It's a bitterly satirical yet oddly warm look at the U.S. debacle in Iraq that at the end triumphantly reaffirms pacifist ideals.
boucharde__inside_.a.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x797
“Happy Songs About the War” at Compass
Don’t Be Put Off by the Title — See This Show!
by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2008 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
Even if you reach the predictable — and accurate — conclusion that singer-songwriter-playwright JD Boucharde was being ironic when he titled his current show (playing Sunday through Wednesday nights through June 4 at Compass Theatre, nèe 6th @ Penn, 3706 Sixth Avenue in Hillcrest) Happy Songs About the War, you might not be anxious to sit through it. Go anyway. Boucharde, a tall, lanky blond man with well-tattooed forearms and a strong voice, surprisingly rock-ish given that he makes most of his living as a cocktail-lounge pianist, turns out also to be an excellent actor and an incisive if not always original writer who slips easily from speech to song and from one character to another in this one-person show.
Boucharde has been writing Happy Songs About the War since the U.S.’s current occupation of Iraq started in 2003. Originally it was just a side project while he recorded a CD to follow up a previous album called Contra Mundum (“Against the World”). Figuring he’d better finish Contra Mundum, Vol. 2 first, Boucharde explained, “I put it away in The Drawer, where many of my other great ideas go. It sat there, silent, patient, barely breathing.”
Things changed in December 2006, when, Boucharde said, “after buying a house, moving and galumphing clumsily through the holidays, I found myself wide awake one night, staring at the ceiling. I got up, turned on the computer, and wrote until dawn. The next morning, I did the exact same thing. And the next, and the next. It became this strange ritual: every night, without exception, I’d put on my robe, grab the space heater, and shuffle out to the computer in the living room. Luckily, my wife — as well as being drop-dead gorgeous and capable of putting up daily with the likes of me — can sleep through anything.”
What has emerged from this series of all-nighters is a project that artfully combines songs and sketches to tell the grim story of how the U.S. got involved in Iraq. It doesn’t offer any especially new insights but it does manage to have a certain amount of fun with the story we all know, from the grandfatherly photo and aureole of banal New Age synthesizer tinkling that accompanies every mention of the name “Dick Cheney” to the cell-phone calls from the unseen, unheard “Landon,” supposedly Boucharde’s attorney, which interrupt the show (on purpose) and provide a running gag on how often the legal climate changes in the Bush administration.
The main thread of the show is contained in the song “Gold Chain of Command,” a folkish ballad set to a tune similar to the one Woody Guthrie used in “Deportees,” which recurs throughout the show to tell how the war filtered down from the corporate interests who ordered it through the political system down to the soldiers on the front line who do the actual fighting — and dying. Other songs in the show, notably “War Party,” are more openly satirical, albeit in a wry way. Perhaps the best song in the show is “Bullets Are Our Friends,” as vicious and insightful a musical look at the whole mentality behind accepting endless war as inevitable as any one can imagine. Boucharde wisely bookends the show with his most inspiring anthems, the gospel-flavored “Wake-Up Call” at the beginning and “Shine,” a pacifist sing-a-long reminiscent of John Lennon’s “Imagine” which Boucharde originally wrote for a Christmas-themed show called The Unconquerable Sun, at the end.
But the show isn’t all music. Boucharde turns out to be an excellent actor, especially in his impersonation of President George W. Bush trashing the Constitution. He has the physique for Bush and his reproduction of the President’s halting delivery, penchant for malapropism and repetition of phrases in his text he’s not sure he understands is spot-on. The other high point of the show’s spoken portion is a spoof of the mainstream media, particularly Fox News (the style of the graphics Boucharde, Callow and videographers Kirk and Noelle Geiger prepared for this segment give the game away), for going along with the government’s propaganda and telling us in a golly-gee-whillikers tone that “The War Is Going Really, Really Well!”
The child-like nature of Boucharde’s performances as Bush and several newscasters is key to one of the most interesting role-reversals in his script. When the second act begins, he’s playing a six-year-old sitting at a table behind a sign reading, “My Very Best Ideas 25¢” — which seems to have been inspired by Lucy’s “Psychiatric Help 5¢” booth in Peanuts — and there’s a long scene in which he accosts an unseen grownup that for the longest time doesn’t seem to have anything to do with war or Iraq at all. Eventually the connection becomes clear — and so does Boucharde’s ironic intent: while all the adults in his story (especially the real-life ones) are acting like children, the six-year-old is denouncing the use of religion to justify war and thinking like an adult. Once again, he’s got the acting chops to pull this off — his body posture lightens and he does a good job of reproducing the sheer rambunctious energy of a young boy — before he rather rudely returns us to the grownup world.
Happy Songs About the War is a cheeky show that doesn’t quite live up to its title — not that it really should — but is genuinely moving and well worth seeing. It’s billed as a “workshop” production, meaning it’s still a work in progress and liable to be rewritten based on audience responses, but about all that’s wrong with it in its present form is the sound glitches. Throughout much of the first act on opening night, May 25, Boucharde’s electronic keyboard instrument was so loud it overwhelmed his vocals, and by the time he and Callow got it turned down for act two, they started having trouble with his microphone and he had to worry about drowning himself out again. (His songs have lyrics that are worth listening to, and it’s a shame he and his wife Azúl, who runs the box office, aren’t selling the songs on CD in the lobby; they’re working on a DVD presentation instead.) Boucharde’s biography in the program says this is the first time he’s ever acted on a professional stage; he’s good enough that it certainly won’t be the last.
Happy Songs About the War runs every Sunday through Wednesday night through Wednesday, June 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Compass Theatre, 3706 Sixth Avenue in Hillcrest. If you have a broadband Internet connection, you can order tickets online at www.happysongsaboutthewar.com. Otherwise go through the San Diego Performing Arts Scene Web site, http://tickets.sandiegoperforms.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=594. You can also hear JD Boucharde as a pianist every Sunday evening at the Turf Club, 1126 25th Street in Golden Hill.
Report this post as:
GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE
lausd whistle blower
Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images
UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light
Change Links April 2018
Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A.
Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released
Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups
After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video
Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights
What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It
Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down
Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29
Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf
Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development
Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine
Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents
Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters
City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre
Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling
Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present
Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police
LA Times Homicide Report
More Local News...
Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service
The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally!
The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder
Paraphysique de la dictature étatique
Book Review: "The New Bonapartists"
The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia
Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine
The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally!
“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize!
The World Dependent on Central Banks
Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine
March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update
Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel
ICE contract with license plate reader company
Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes
Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges
Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes
Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety
Mesa, Arizona police officer kills unarmed white man
Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes
Paraphysique de l'autorité
Two Podcasts on fbi corruption
Fbi assassins assault & try to kill DAVID ATKINS
EPA Head Scott Pruitt: Of Cages And Sirens
The Shortwave Report 04/06/18 Listen Globally!
Nicaraguas Conflic with native Peoples on the Caribbean Coast Near Bluefields in Decade80
More Breaking News...