The Body Politic

  • Our critic's rating:
    February 1, 2011

    Review by Tulis McCall
    (22 Feb 2011)

    The depth of despair that this production evoked is in me was breathtaking. Literally!

    Awhile ago, I had a very thought-provoking email exchange with a woman who objected to my calling a play “a train-wreck”. She advised me to remember that there were people involved and that no production is meritless because there is worthiness in work; point taken and thought about often since.

    This is the story of Spencer, (Matthew Boston) a Republican who falls in love with Trish (Eve Danzeisen) while on the campaign trail for dueling gubernatorial candidates. This has already been done in a fairly public way by James Carville of the Clinton camp and Mary Matalin of the Bush dynasty. So, like most ideas, this one isn’t new.

    The romance is predictable from the first minute when the opposing teams are confined to a small room while waiting for transportation out of town. The conversation is a volley of clichés and sounds like overtired children bickering at recess. Do adults actually speak this way? Then there is a tiny spark when the defending Democratic candidate, Governor Parker (Brian Dykstra) is asked why he does not attend church, and the flicker of a potential plot point appears. Ah-hah!! Something relative and worth exploring; but we are not so lucky, as the loudspeaker barks to the room of four men and two women - “Gentlemen your cars are here.” Guess the women were traveling separately.

    The next two hours are filled with the flowering love story, although why these two people are attracted to one another is beyond me. Their dialogue consists of political platitudes and arguments. At no point do we get to see who these people are other than mouthpieces for their respective candidates. There is the occasional reference to that religion thing again, and there is the obligatory “please spy for our team” offer to both lovebirds. Each takes on the task and is so obvious in the effort that we think each of them to be dunces with hormones.

    Things go from bad to worse with true love winning in the end; feh.

    In addition to the failing of the text, the direction seems to have taken place somewhere very far away. Margaret Perry (co-author) was obviously relying on her script to do her work for her, and this was not a wise choice. The scenes look to be something that the actors worked out themselves on one of those days that Ms. Perry was late. There is no thought or depth. All is bland and boring. There is no heartbeat for the entire two hours of this production.

    This is another case of “You must never blame the actors,” but I am sorely tempted. The performances here are on a par with the direction: uninspired in every way. It is as though the cast realized too late that this play lacks credulity and craft, so they are simply keeping their heads down and hoping to get through each show unscathed.

    Early on in the play, when the two teams are cooling their heels in the same room, one of the characters references No Exit and says that “Hell is being locked up forever with people who get on your nerves. “ It is also being locked up in a theatre with a play that makes you want to yell “Fire!” and run screaming into the street.

    (Tulis McCall)

    What the popular press said...

    "The evening is filled with stock situations and characters."
    Frank Scheck for NY Post

    "The writers hobble their play by giving their characters little more to say than political sound bites, reducing them to simplistic talking heads rather than elevating them to complex, flesh-and-blood people."
    Clifford Lee Johnson III for Back Stage

    New York Post - Back Stage