If you’re hooked and can’t get enough with the current 24/7 news cycle of politics, and you’re jonesing for an extra fix, LVLT’s “Farragut North” could be it. Beau Willimon’s play is a look behind the scenes of the game as Chris Davies makes his directorial debut.
The cast is headed up by David Kurtz as Stephen Bellamy, the latest Boy Wonder spin doctor. Though he stumbled a tiny bit in the opening, once he found his footing, Kurtz brought an intensity to the role that permeated his entire being. Every gesture, expression, and vocal inflection convinced us of confidence personified. Until the player gets played. The character begins to unravel, and Kurtz takes us along on the desperate ride; the junkie willing to go to any lengths, he creates a full-bodied protagonist we hate and still want to see win.
Jacob Moore is as effective as Paul Zara, the campaign manager. His Zara lumbers across the stage, fully in control of the situation, ready with the answer to any given situation. When he comes back from an unsuccessful trip to the Men’s room, plops into a chair, and feels the need to share the experience, Moore retains just enough seriousness to make it work. He knows how to combine physicality with the turn of dialogue to mine the comedy. Yet, in the second act, Moore delivers a short monologue about loyalty with a sense of sadness that reeks of true disappointment in a friend.
What would backroom politics be without the journalist looking for the scoop? Shawna Abston plays New York Times gonzo Ida Horowitz. Abston brings the right amount of “I’m just one of the guys” to the group. She convinces us she’s right there in their camp, we buy into the disguise because Abston works the room. Yet, she keeps Ida’s true colors close enough to the surface that the complete turn-around doesn’t come across as a complete surprise.
The political intern is a staple of campaigns. One expects the standard issue and Willimon’s script delivers one in the form of Molly Pearson. The pleasant surprise is that Ryan Connor delivers anything but the standard. She gives a beautifully understated performance that resonates from her first entrance. As Molly gains confidence, Pearson uses subtleties to project the changes and the growth comes organically.
Tom Duffy is the mean-spirited, conniving, back-stabbing, back room player of politics that appears to be permeating our real current presidential campaign season. But Regg Davidson’s choices misfire. He doesn’t give us a sense of forceful, deliberate calculation that Duffy needs to convince us of his goals. As a result, when he delivers the double-cross, it’s as if he’s just offered us a free sugar donut with our coffee; the sense of premeditated betrayal doesn’t register.
Leo Alfaro is the rookie go-fer, Ben Fowler—a Bellamy wanna-be—and Alfaro plays him to excellent effect. This is the sort of role that most actors would play straight out of the script. Fowles reluctantly stands aside, runs errands, and Alfaro imbues the tasks with expressions and physical attributes of subservience. But, if you watch him closely enough, he’s given this character true dimension.
Making his acting debut in dual roles, Raman David plays Frank (another journalist) with a good flair, and delivers a decent performance as a Waiter with some minor slips. His dialect comes across as false because it slips in and out and, if true to the intrinsic details of the script, there wouldn’t be one to begin with. He also ran headlong into a directorial issue when a lighting cue misfired.
Overall, the problems with the production come from that arena. Davies has blocked the action with unmotivated movement. In one scene Pearson ping-pongs from one side of Kurtz to the other when realistically she would be hovering above his injured head. There are numerous times when Davies has characters move downstage and face the audience as if to say, “pay attention here - this one is dramatically important.” Those moments only serve to pull us out of the scene because they don’t portray reality.
The lighting exacerbates the problem because the moments don’t last long enough for the lighting changes to be used to proper effect. That issue notwithstanding, Kendra Harris’ lighting is great.
The remaining production values are solid, and there’s a steady pace. This is where the real intrigue of back room deals and dirty politics happens, and this production serves up a solid enough portion of political high to feed your addiction that you won’t miss sitting in front of the television.
What: Farragut North
When: 8 p.m. Thursday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through September 18
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff drive
Tickets: $10 - $15 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)
Grade: *** (Satisfying)
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Chris Davies; Original Music and Sound Design: Sandy Stein; Set Design: Melanie Croft; Lighting Design: Kendra Harris; Media Design: April Sauline; Costume Design: Kim Glover; Stage Manager: Genna Durante