Vote Morris! Vote Pullman! Vote corruption! However, if you intend to vote – Silver Spring Stage is your polling place with their production of Beau Willimon’s Farragut North. A neck-and-neck race to secure a win in the primaries is the backdrop for this sharp political drama. Directed by Bridget Muehlberger, this is the perfect show for the current political climate. This production delivers poignant moments of corruption and backroom politics.
Unfortunately, last night’s performance was hampered by some technical difficulties which I know will be rectified in time for today’s performance. Sound Designer Kevin Garrett created soundtracks of background noises to match each scene, and at times it distracted from what the actors were attempting to do on stage. In the opening scene at the bar there was a distracting piano and conversation garble coming from the back of the house to the point where it almost sounded like another event above the venue was taking place. This happened several times throughout the production, including during scenes at the airport terminal and at the office headquarters. It was unfortunate because these distracting background noises often caught the attention of the audience more than the subtle important lines of the characters.
I also wish that the pacing moved more quickly. The elongated expository scenes dragged and so did some of the scenes between the protagonist and the main female character. This ultimately made the more riveting scenes fall short of their climactic potential.
Despite these technical and pacing snafus – there are many fine moments in Farragut North. The tense moments of this production are provided by the talented acting of this small cast of eight. While having only a minor appearance Ben (Omar LaTiri) became more relevant to the very end of the show but kept a low profile throughout. LaTiri was effective at being the quiet but eager young political boy and kept his notions and emotions to himself until the exact moment where they would deliver the highest impact.
Politics is broken down as a joke saying that the word Poly- meaning many – and tics – being blood-sucking creatures. Both Paul Zara (Bill Hurlbut) and Tom Duffy (Mario Font) live up to this wisecrack about the profession. Hurlbut looks like a sleazy politician with something to gain from twisting everyone’s screws to his advantage. He’s cool calm and collected with that suave and smarmy edge that makes him sleazy without being dirty. Until he loses his cool late in act II in which case he’s a volatile monster that makes an angry Nixon look pleasant.
Font is similar in his portrayal of Duffy, though he never has the full physical and emotional outburst that Hurlbut does. Font crafts a scheming meddling man under the smooth exterior of a slick but rotten man of the opposition. From the subdued and easy way he speaks to the crafty twinkle in his eye he makes a dynamite villain without ever leaving a trace of villainy in his path.
Of course the act of being a blood-sucker in politics is rivaled only by the cutthroat bitch persona found in major journalist Ida Horowicz (Leta Hall.) Snappy with her retorts, quick to play any angle she can, Hall is lurking surreptitiously at the edge of every conversation, even when she’s not present on stage. The mere mention of her name because of the way she has defined her stage presence gives her a forceful existence even when she’s elsewhere. Hall doesn’t wrap up her sinister nature in the cool manner that the boys do, but rather waves her stab-you-in-the-back daggers like a badge of pride.
Opposite this treacherous female is the sultry but innocent intern Molly (Janey Robideau). Playing the stereotype innocent seductress, Robideau uses her body and her beauty to the character’s advantage. When she speaks she speaks largely with her physicality, a flip of her head to the side, or a subtle crossing of the legs; all exuding her sensual sexuality into the role, creating the cliché woman – the flirt in the skirt, even though she never actually wears a skirt. Robideau runs the gambit on emotions, being the most physically expressive, as is expected of the girl who wears her feelings on her sleeve.
The protagonist, cocky young upstart Stephen Bellamy (Jonathan Feuer), learns the hard way that the only currency in politics that matters is loyalty. And the only person you can trust in politics is yourself. Feuer masters the art of benig an asshole, full of himself and full of his ability to control the outcome of the campaign race. He provides a sensational performance, echoing this sentiment in different manners for each of the characters he encounters. His awkward chemistry with Robideau is all the more effective when the explosive ending erupts in their faces.
Trust my word that Silver Spring Stage’s Farragut North delivers the political punch to see this election year.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.