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Misha Shulman’s The Fake History of George the Last, at Theater for the New City, draws an unusually well-pruned family tree. Patriarch George, with the willing assistance of a series of wives, has cloned himself for 10 or more generations. The play opens on the eve of George X’s 16th birthday. Upon learning the truth of his singular inheritance, young George (Jared Mezzocchi) reacts poorly, battering Dad and shunning cake. In between scenes of this domestic drama, talking heads on video monitors sing bouncy songs drawn from the Old Testament’s Book of Ecclesiastes.
Shulman has much to say about violence, history, and the desire for an individual self—or so claims a program note. Certainly these motifs lurk somewhere in the script, but they’re overwhelmed by lame passages devoted to discussion of feces and predatory giraffes. The actors are dedicated, and a few of them (Ben Jaeger-Thomas, Sarah Painter) divulge some skill, but director Meghan Finn directs them to deliver their lines at a fervid pace and pitch, which grows tiresome. Indeed, Shulman’s play, for all the uniqueness of its concept, wears out its welcome too soon. Perhaps he should have cloned fewer poo jokes.