If the cloak-and-dagger-style shenanigans surrounding the audience’s experience of the play I’m Gonna Kill the President: A Federal Offense are slightly more interesting than the play itself, that’s perhaps to be expected. How could any production live up to the hype whipped up by the photocopied flyers winging about town, all mention on them of any production company or performance space redacted out in black magic marker? Taken altogether, the experience is one of surreal, saccharine fun, with just enough substance thrown into the mix to make it feel like it may even have been good for you.
“A sizzling political satire” is what the flyers promise. To see it, you have to call a phone number, upon which you’re told a secret meeting place. Upon arriving at that location (the East Bay side of the U.S. Custom House on my visit — a federal building flanked by two police cruisers), you can expect to be greeted by a large gentleman wearing a ski mask and asked gruffly for your “paperwork,” which, naturally, you won’t have. You’ll then be sent down the street on the lookout for “that guy” — and escorted by a succession of black-masked guerilla types and others to a performance space a few blocks away and given a program in which all of the actors’ and writers’ names have been marked out “for security reasons.”
Despite its deliberately provocative title, I’m Gonna Kill the President is no Bush-bashing political screed. Rather, it’s a fast-paced slapstick comedy about the odd adventures of a wannabe anarchist named Skip, who, after he discovers that a homegrown suicide bomber is not the best prospect for a long-term relationship, meets Fifi, a whitebread college cutie with a longing to rebel against something, anything. Skip takes Fifi under his wing and makes her his radicalist acolyte in a laughable, and very funny, plot to overthrow the government. Along the way, the talented, mostly anonymous cast (which includes a voracious creature called Massive Media made of a sleeping bag and a set of bulging eyes who turns everyone it attacks into mindless zombies) indulges in a frenetic skewering of “The Man,” both political parties, Dawson’s Creek, and countless other black spots on America’s rap sheet.
At one point, an audience member is asked to volunteer her cellphone, and an actor places a call to the White House, switchboard, whereupon the entire audience is asked to shout the title of the play at the phone, which we do. Shortly after this, the production I was at came to an abrupt end with a visit from several faux federales. We were told to leave, stepping over the handcuffed actors lying face down on the floor. That’s dedication to the craft.