By Beau Willimon
Directed by Vance Smith
Politics makes strange – but often fascinating — bedfellows
Paranoia, bald ambition, and gluttony for power, these are the building blocks of Beau Willimon’s neat, provocative political drama: Farragut North. The playwright cleverly interweaves these themes to warp the soul of his driving and driven characters, especially young, brilliant media advisor Stephen, played to a “T” by Brian Ploucharczyk.
Willimon mines his own experiences. He worked for Senator Chares E. Schumer of NY, wrote speeches for President Clinton and — perhaps most important –worked as an intern on the 2004 Primary Campaign for Howard Dean. The result is his creation of Stephen, a man teethed on politics, entering the campaign trail at the tender and impressionable age of 15. Now he is 25, an old hand – at the top of his game as a press agent — and yet he is neither so old nor so wise as to avoid the pitfalls of his profession.
Passionately involved political hacks surround Steve – his immediate boss Paul (Mike Dailey), his erstwhile disciple Ben (Ian McLaren), and Tom, a satanic figure from the rival camp (Sandy Elias).
Sara Denison plays a brittle, striving New York Times reporter Ida, who will do nearly anything for a story. In contrast is Molly, a political intern, played with a sweet yet seductive innocence by Melanie Derleth.
Andy Quijano rounds out the cast as a humble, sincere waiter choking on the current economy and hopeful that a change in the political climate will actually change his life.
Steve’s story is a tale of hubris, temptation, and downfall set on the campaign trail. If you ever thought politics was an ugly, shady business (and who thinks otherwise?), your beliefs will be reinforced. Nothing is more fascinating than a behind-the scenes look at what is “actually” going on –an examination of moral and ethical questions, not to mention loyalty.
Why the title “Farragut North”? The words are only mentioned once – and yet they are haunting. Farragut North is a “nowheresville”— a mere metro stop in Washington DC — the end of the road where failures whose reach far exceeds their grimy grasp ultimately must depart the train. This tale of winners and losers leaves the audience to decide who actually is which. In so doing, it has become a Jeff nominee – deservedly and happily so for this kick off of Stage Left’s 30th Season.
In an interesting aside, a film of the play– to be titled The Ideas of March — will soon be released. In a major shift, George Clooney will play the part of the one character never seen in the play: the presidential candidate!
Recommended in both election and non-election years for audiences of all political persuasions.
Stage Left at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Tickets $25, www.theaterwit.org, 773-975-8150. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, Running time 1 hour and 50 minutes (including a 10 minute intermission), through Oct. 9.