At Santa Monica’s City Garage, Charles Duncombe’s adaptation of Heiner Müller’s text The Mission, which Duncombe retitled The Mission (Accomplished), takes Müller’s saga of three French insurgents (Troy Dunn, Bo Roberts and David Mack) in 1798 who tried to instigate a slave rebellion in British-ruled Jamaica, then juxtaposes that poem about regime change gone awry with images of a ruminative George W. Bush (John Deschamps), Donald Rumsfeld (David E. Frank), Dick Cheney (Roberts) and an American soldier in Iraq (Maximiliano Molina). Punching such a hole in the wall of history is a technique Duncombe endeavored in a 2001 adaptation of a different Müller text, Frederick of Prussia: George W.’s Dream of Sleep. The two productions are City Garage’s bookends to the Bush II presidency and could, taken together, be called Empire Lost. Duncombe sails on stormy artistic waters, imposing a topical American context onto Müller’s historical allegory. Every rule in the book says this should fail, like those productions of Julius Caesar in which the title character emerges wearing a U.S. flag pin and throws the word nucular into the prose. Yet Duncombe pulls it off, largely because his own writing style matches Müller’s careful and tender poeticism. The other lifeboat comes from director Frédérique Michel, who guides the American portraits away from caricature. Aside from that, Michel’s production is as visually elegant and erotic as the text is intellectually rigorous. Wonderful performances come from by Ishani Das, Cynthia Mance and Amanda Mayen. How a portrait of such brutality can emerge so sensually is a trick that defies description. There’s a subtle hint in this production that matches Ritter’s sentiments: that the end of empire need not mean the end of the world; life’s richness and beauty can persevere, if we allow it.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5:30 p.m. Starts: April 25. Continues through June 1, 2008

LA Weekly