by Romulus Linney
Directed by Steven Fedoruk
Produced by Eclipse Theatre Company
At the Greenhouse Theater Center
Mixed tone of Linney’s Democracy a tricky theatre piece
Director Steven Fedoruk does his best trying to balance Romulus Linney’s Democracy–a theatrical adaptation from Henry Adams’ tales of love with the Washington scandals of the Grant Administration circa, 1875. With a strange set by Chris Jensen depicting the wheels of government and with the provocative woman’s dresses by Joshua Allard, Democracy tries hard to work as a farce-within-a-farce moving from satire to high drama. Basically, Democracy delivers the troubled style from Linney due to the skill of the cast.
The basic story concerns two Washington women who must decide whether to marry two dashing American men, knowing they will also marry the beliefs of their husbands. Set in the background of scandal and corruption in the Administration of Ulysses Grant in 1875, Democracy highlights the hypocrisy found in the workings of representative government.
The farcical elements didn’t work as well as the dramatic elements. We see Esther Dudley (Nina O’Keefe)–a pants wearing independent woman who is attracted to Reverend Hazard (Stephen Dale)–a fundamentalist Christian preacher as the two spar between sexual attraction and their difference in beliefs. She is anti-religious and he is a pastor of a Christian church. They have a dance of love-hate with the help of Lydia Dudley (Barbara Roeder Harris)–Esther’s aunt.
Mrs Lee (Rebecca Prescott)–a New York widow has fallen for Senator Silas Raitcliffe (Jon Steinhagen)–a pragmatic politician from Illinois loyal to President Grant. She is an idealist, he is a problem solver. Their attraction is strife with philosophical conflict. Steinhagen deftly moves from drama to biting satire with ease. Baron Jacobi (smart work from Larry Baldacci) narrates adding stinging comments on the action.
Linney’s script is filled with conflicting beliefs about American politics, truth and the process of success. At time funny, scathing and amazingly relevant to today’s Washington, Democracy works due to the nuanced work by Jon Steinhagen, Stephen Dale, Nina O’ Keefe and Rebecca Prescott. Their performances far exceeds the material proving that terrific acting can make average material into a fine theatrical experience.
At the Greenhouse Theatre Center, 2257 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-404-7336,www.eclipsetheatre.com, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 inutes with intermission.