In The First Canadian President of the United States (playing at St. Vlad’s), Kimberly White-White, the titular first Canadian President of the newly-merged United States of North America, shares her wisdom and life story with the 2084 graduating class of Preston Manning College. It’s all fine and well until her teleprompter goes haywire–and that’s when things get interesting.
Author (and Fringe royalty) Jem Rolls is clearly setting his sights on Sarah Palin: President White-White, a big-breasted nobody who was plucked from obscurity by FOX News and a Conservative political fixer, is an empty suit. She prides herself on ignorance and unquestioningly accepts instructions from her speechwriters. Actor Priscilla Yakielashek apes her speech, mannerisms and vocabulary wonderfully: “you betcha”, “real folks” and even some choice references to “lib-lefties”.
The difficulty I had is that the characterization is incomplete for one key reason. One of Sarah Palin’s defining characteristics is her all-powerful determination and self-confidence, but Yakielashek’s Kimberly White-White often seems utterly consumed by doubt, confusion and regret. It makes for a rather weak and spineless character, and I wasn’t the only one in the audience who wondered if such a person would have any success in politics, let alone get themselves appointed president.
I also wasn’t sure what Jem Rolls wanted White-White to do: he takes shots at Palin, at public ignorance, at the rise of China, at technological development, at jingoistic nationalism… basically, it’s a kitchen sink political play. But many of these targets are already so soft that it hardly seems worth the effort, and none of it gelled. I couldn’t find a deeper meaning here than bromides about “elections are good” and “ignorance is bad”.
The script does manage one interesting maneuver, in that it makes us feel sympathy and pity for White-White, who is clearly trapped in circumstances she neither understands nor is capable of controlling. But everything else felt so scattershot that it was actually quite disorienting. (Is this segment about the dangers of technocracy, or about the importance of acknowledging doubt? Oh. Never mind, it’s another joke about breasts.)
It’s funny in parts, and some moments are genuinely touching, but I just couldn’t find much depth to it.
- The First Canadian President of the United States plays at St. Vladimir’s Theatre (620 Spadina Ave.)
- Showtimes are July 05 08:15 PM; July 07 09:45 PM; July 08 01:45 PM; July 10 10:45 PM; July 11 02:30 PM; July 12 03:30 PM; July 14 03:30 PM
- All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are also available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, or in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows
Photograph of Priscilla Yakielashek provided by the company.