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Arts & Culture

Bob Goepfert Reviews "Farragut North” At Curtain Call Theatre

LATHAM - If you haven’t yet had your fill of vile people engaging in political backstabbing - you will be happy to know that “Farragut North” continues at  Curtain Call Theatre in Latham through November 26.

The political drama was originally produced in 2008, and the behavior of the operatives representing candidates in the Iowa presidential caucuses might have seemed shocking at the time.  Today it’s reality television.

The playwright, Beau Willimon, worked as a press aid on Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign and went on to create the Netflix political drama, “House of Cards.”  He knows political drama and in “Farragut North” he creates a fascinating cast of characters. 

The work centers around 25 year old whiz kid Stephen Bellamy.  During the play’s two-hour running time we also meet Stephen’s mentor, and another political operative who tries to lure the young man to work on the opposition’s campaign. For flavor there is also a young flunky who is smarter than he appears, a cynical reporter for the New York Times, an attractive 19 year old promiscuous female intern and an immigrant waiter.

Once you suspend reasonable disbelief and accept the critical premise that drives the plot – that a simplistic plan to manipulate the polls can work and so many savvy political minds accept the validity of the plan without question - the play starts cooking the apple pie of American politics with the main ingredients being deceit, treachery and betrayal.

“Farragut North” might be a hard sell coming this close to the election, but it is a compelling tale about the dark side of ambition, ego and power. If the plot were about big business or banking it would remind you of a David Mamet play about common men trying to find their place in contemporary soulless society.  By the way, the language is Mamet-like with the abundant use of casual expletives.

Director Steve Fletcher tells the story well. Once he gets past the first scene which is heavily bogged down with exposition, he keeps the story – which covers 9 scenes in two acts – flowing at a fast pace.  Fletcher uses the minimalistic scenic design of Frank Oliva to keep the show moving as the performers efficiently relocate columns to create new performing spaces.

It is difficult to portray such vile people without losing the audience.  Though no one in the cast does the impossible – which is to make you care about any character on stage - the performers rarely become hateful. 

It only happens with the character of Stephen, and that is not the fault of actor Steve Maggio.   It is the playwright’s mistake in overwriting the play’s ending.  The play goes on about 15-minutes after its logical conclusion. That extension adds a sentimental speech by the waiter and behavior that makes Stephen look like a self-destructive obsessive rather than a slick operative who simply lacks a conscience. 

But perhaps the point of the play is to show that nowadays the two types seemed to have already merged.

“Farragot North” continues at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham with performances Thursdays to Sundays until November 26. For tickets and schedule information call 877-7529.   

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.