Et Tu, Condoleezza? 

Dick Cheney orchestrates a power grab and war on Canada in the Mime Troupe's latest installment.

It's unseemly to gloat when the chickens start coming home to roost. But what warm-blooded liberal can resist a snicker at the news that Junior has finally accepted responsibility for his false statements about Iraq trying to buy nuclear material from Niger? The question of how the war on Iraq could have been based on faulty intel is finally being taken seriously, and the parties responsible are being called to task. But don't let it be said that the Bush administration doesn't watch out for its own. Right now it is trying not to leave Condoleezza Rice out for the vultures, but the San Francisco Mime Troupe has no such compunctions. In its usual prescient fashion -- the new show, Veronique of the Mounties, opened July 4, three weeks before Junior defended Rice as an "honest, fabulous person" -- the troupe is switching focus from Junior and Dick to our national security adviser.

Which means, happily, that we get to see a lot of Velina Brown in the dual roles of Condoleezza Rice and Veronique of the Mounties, Canada's Only Hope. Apparently, for all these years, Canada has been protected from US aggression by its ownership of a petrified maple leaf that sends soothing mental beams southward. Call it a Weapon of Mass Delusion. This magical artifact has kept us thinking Canada is too cold and remote to worry about, leaving the Canadian government free to do things such as providing affordable health care to their citizens and other distinctly un-American activities. When Rice visits Canada on state business, she steals the leaf, and suddenly it's possible to convince the American public that Canada is a real threat to our way of life. Canada -- "the biggest threat since Satan" -- has just been waiting for the right moment to "rain icy death down on innocent America." Of course, like Iraq, it's not the Canadians we need to worry about, but rather "an oppressive regime so oppressive," -- according to embedded bimbo BSNBC reporter Buffy Stern in her ultrashort snow camo skirt -- that "this man has to live in a house made out of ice!"

"That's an igloo, eh," responds the hapless native.

Is Canada really such a threat? Has it secretly been trying to buy nuclear material from Madagascar and stocking up on deadly acne spores? Or is this perhaps part of Dick Cheney's master plan of restoring empire to the world in the form of US hegemony, as depicted in the last two Mime Troupe shows? You got it. Cheney is starting to show the strain, and he's ready to make bold moves. "That man almost lost a fixed election," he says in disgust of the president as he explains why it's imperative he and Rice wrest power from the throne. Attacking Canada is a move calculated to solidify Cheney's power base and create his dreamed-of Pax Americus Corporandus: He hopes to enlist Rice's support on two fronts, one of them horizontal. Together they sing "Superior People" -- "What's good for the best is good for the least/That's how wealth is increased/That's why even the most destitute son of a bitch/Doesn't want to tax the rich!" -- and dream of one world united under the dollar.

Yet Condi is torn. On the one hand, she exclaims that "George and Laura are like the white brother and sister I never had!" But the temptation of power is strong, and she really likes the sound of Cheney/Rice 2008. Either way, there's something standing in the way of her ambition, a family secret that could spoil her chances at sharing a ticket with the lecherous Cheney, and that secret relates to the valiant Mountie making her painstaking way to the Undisclosed Location where Cheney has hidden the magic maple leaf.

Veronique du Bois hates America and hates Americans, period. "If there's a God," she cries at one point, certain she's about to die, "if there's a heaven, at least I won't see any Americans there." At first she resists her assignment from the diminutive Canadian prime minister (Keiko Shimosato) to disguise herself as an American and retrieve the leaf, but there's no other way. She'll have to brave our "Krispy Kremes and crack, video games and porn" to protect her beloved country from becoming another Afghanistan, another Iraq.

Spy games, car chases, and goofy sound effects ensue in the Mime Troupe's usual preaching-to-the-choir style. This one is better than last year's but maybe not as good as the one before; so much of the territory is the same that it almost doesn't feel like a new show so much as the next chapter of last year's. Essentially Veronique of the Mounties is part three in what looks like it's going to be known as an all-satire tetralogy, perhaps the Bushiad.

Unlike the last two Mime Troupe shows, which drew heavily from their source material (the Dracula mythos, the noble but naive Mr. Smith), Veronique of the Mounties is more of a "from scratch" show. Unlike her famous cartoon compatriot Dudley Do-Right, Veronique is not a bumbler who can't keep Snidely Whiplash from tying women to the railroad tracks. She's noble, virtuous, and brave. She does have one big problem, however: She keeps blowing her cover. And cover is important, as this show gleefully ransacks every spy movie ever made. There's a papers-please Casablanca moment in Big Ed's Alcohol Hut. And like Rick's Place, Big Ed's is also home to rebels such as Dorothea Whitman, veteran librarian and member of the ultra-secret antigovernment LATEFEE. The villain adheres to Spy Movie Rule Number One, telling the hero, "Since you're going to die anyway, I'll tell you my plan." There's an interrogation scheduled, and an Out Pill, which Veronique readies as she sings the surprisingly lovely "Canada Adieu."

Bekka Fink's Judith is equal parts adorable and terrifying as a gun-crazy little girl. Conrad Cimarra moves like Gumby. Ed Holmes returns as the vice president, and he's heartily sick of it, exhorting the audience after the show to register and vote against the Republicans in 2004 so that he doesn't have to play the VP anymore. "Put me out of a job," he jokes. He also manages to be funny without being condescending as sick vet Harry, who props up the bar at Big Ed's. "I should have stayed in Vietnam after the war," he says. "At least I'd be working for Nike." But this is really Brown's show. Two especially noteworthy moments are hers: one when she manages to snag a ride to the Lambs of Jesus Small Arms Jamboree with a family of rifle-toting Christian fundamentalists by masquerading as Brother Sunshine of the National Association of Homophobic Black Churches -- his wife Sister Lana of Confucians for Christ in tow -- and another when she's switching back and forth between roles near the end.

Technically Veronique has all the usual musical, visual, and physical-comedy cleverness for which the troupe is known, even if the day I went a misplaced costume situation meant the show started an hour late. The colorful snowy-mountain set has more folds, slots, and tabs than a kid's pop-up book and just might make you feel chilly looking at it. The producers have taken last year's skiing effect and blown it up for a hilarious car chase where the "drivers" zigzag across the stage while their "cars" (painted flats) move behind them. The troupe's members have been working together long enough that, while their message may be getting repetitive, their chops are tight, and that shows in everything from the music to the assured way the actors use their small stage. And the language is as funny as ever, at least if you're like-minded and can appreciate the news that if it "smells like old, wet hippies -- it's the smell of Canadian treachery!"


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