Robbins' overwhelming feelings of victimhood led him to write his play, "Embedded," about heroic soldiers wrongly sent to Iraq by conniving, greedy, "neoconservative" leaders and, in an even more ridiculous caricature, war-mongering, military-boot-licking reporters. Central to the plot are a sextet of grotesquely masked "president's men," who are linked to the Bush White House by such clever nicknames as Dick, Pearly White, Gondola, Wolfy, and Rum Rum. Once again, Robbins feels it is inaccurate to describe this propagandistic play as a "political statement," insisting he doesn't know "what the message is."
Fortunately for those who haven't rushed to New York and surrendered 50 bucks, the critics have nailed the play, and hard. Start with the Associated Press' drama critic: "Embalmed is more like it. Tim Robbins' heavy-handed harangue is satirical deadwood ... that should send audiences of all political persuasions fleeing up the aisles." Ouch.
Then see the New York Daily News: "If you or I had sent as slapdash and adolescent a script as ?Embedded' to the Public Theater, the wary literary manager might not even have sent back a standard rejection letter, lest it invite a correspondence with a writer who was clearly a crank. But then, you and I are not celebrities." Eek.
Even the liberal New York Times couldn't muster a cheer: "Audience members already in sympathy with Mr. Robbins's political views -- the folks, in other words, most likely to attend 'Embedded' -- will quite possibly go from nodding in agreement to simply nodding off." Three strikes, and you're out.
But a closer look makes the spectacle even more grotesque. Critic Terry Teachout noticed that the character "Pearly White" supposedly quotes the philosopher Leo Strauss: "Moral virtue only exists in popular opinion, where it serves the purpose of controlling the unintelligent majority." Teachout suspected the quote was bogus, and a Google Internet search quickly vindicated his suspicion. This supposed Strauss quote actually came, by several odd strands of interpretation, from one Tony Papert, who was writing for the Executive Intelligence Review -- an infamous publication of the perennial presidential candidate/crank Lyndon LaRouche. Robbins is so far off the political radar screen with his play that he's using baked quotes out of the Twilight Zone of LaRouchie magazines!
Teachout mildly concluded: "None of this, of course, has any necessary bearing on the theatrical quality of ?Embedded.' But it does suggest that Tim Robbins, whatever his other virtues, is not a man to be trusted with facts." As they say, facts are stubborn things. But probably not as stubborn (and stubbornly wrong) as Tim Robbins.