G-Man! A Day in the Life of J. Edgar Hoover | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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G-Man! A Day in the Life of J. Edgar Hoover


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G-Man! A Day in the Life of J. Edgar Hoover, Blue Rider Theatre.

Hoover has been ripe for comic skewering ever since Anthony Summers blew him out of the closet--as a homosexual, transvestite, and gambling addict--several years ago with his biography Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover. But sadly, Tim Fiori and Michael Vitali's messy comedy about the FBI director-for-life misses the mark, despite being loaded with plenty of juicy historical facts, like Hoover's mania for collecting blackmail material on just about anyone he could. Or his shady connections with organized crime.

The problem is that G-Man desperately needs more structure. Merely presenting a day in Hoover's life doesn't provide enough context for all the marvelous material Fiori and Vitali have collected. The result is that much of what could be hilarious is merely amusing, and what could have been a biting indictment of FBI powers is frequently toothless.

It doesn't help that Fiori and Vitali junk up the play with lots of vaudevillian shtick--including pun-filled bits that would have tried Chico Marx's patience--or that director Susan Nussbaum has apparently encouraged an over-the-top style that makes Jerry Lewis look restrained. It's too bad: we could have used a production that humorously exposes the bureau's dark side at a time when President Clinton, in the name of national security, is calling for broadening FBI powers, even resuming Hoover-style surveillance of extremist political groups and "enemies of the state."

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