Fringe Review: Who’s Your Baghdaddy? (or How I Started the Iraq War)

It hardly seems fitting that such deadly serious source material as the origins of the (still) ongoing American war in Iraq could be adapted for comedic musical theater. But rather than waxing poetic on the various “flawed people … that [moved] in a herd” towards war (according to Charlie Fink, the play’s producer), three “funditz” (not funnymen, not pundits) serve as narrator-guides and comedic relief for three storylines told simultaneously:

• 2001—An apparent former chemicals weapons engineer from Iraq shows up at German immigration. In exchange for money he is willing to provide information to Germany’s intelligence agency, but so far has not completely vetted and is assigned the codename “Curveball.” An ambitious junior German detective is assigned to his case to determine whether or not he’s lying, and readily accepts whatever he’s told since he believes the info will lead to a promotion.

• 2002—A former CIA field agent relegated to deskwork after a career-ending knee injury is unhappy merely signing off on the work of the younger analysts he supervises. He pushes for more background on the “Curveball” file when he finds it, and one of his analysts pushes a heavily redacted version of it the up the chain of the command. Soon, he’s fighting against his superiors to use the misleading info contained within.

• 2003—A former CIA bigwig working as a news reported for NBC pushes his producers to send him to Iraq where weapons inspectors are trying to located WMDs. When he arrives, he finds what appears to be a mobile chemical weapons lab and announces his finding on the nightly news. He’s quickly appointed head of the nascent Iraq Survey Group by the CIA to locate more WMDs and readily accepts the opportunity to make a name for himself again.

Sounds like a lot to cover in just under 90 minutes? Well, it is. But you’ve got to hand to director Marshall Pailet for marshalling a compelling narrative out of what the play calls “hystorical fiction” (not quite hysterical, not quite historical). Not a single moment goes to waste throughout the production, and there’s plenty to keep your eyes busy with deceptively elaborate choreography and set design.

The play also does very well to completely avoid mentioning 9/11 even once, and never overtly puts on display its political leanings – caricatures of Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann both get their time in the sun to bloviate and pontificate.

Song highlights include the eponymous “Who’s Your Baghdaddy?” rap sung by Curveball and his German detective interrogator-slash-enabler- while the two of them live up the highlife in Berlin’s club scene.

Running time: about 90 minutes

Who’s Your Baghdaddy? information and tickets.