Back rooms, barrooms, bedrooms, bargains and deals abound in FARRAGUT NORTH, currently playing at The Tri-County Performing Arts Center, as a part of Village Productions’ Collage Series. Billed as a political drama, this solid script with razor-sharp acting lets the audience steal a look at the inside of a fictionalized Presidential campaign.
Cast in the role of voyeurs rather than audience members, the opening of the show flows naturally from pre-show audience chatter to a spontaneous appearance of a growing onstage group of interesting, diverse people having animated, humorous conversation and drinks, many drinks, at a hotel bar. The audience wants to know more. The actors’ conversation is not meant to be heard, but rather interactions seen. Introduction of the characters is purely visual. The audience is drawn in and feels as if they are peeking into a barroom ‘window’ at this lively group is not enough. Dialogue in earnest does not begin until after the usual pre-show announcements are made in front of the partying cast.
As the window ‘opens’ up to let the audience ‘fly’ in, the story begins. Pre-introductions are made via the action and finalized through dialogue in an unforced way. Smooth transitions continue as one scene flows into the next on this sparse set. Table, chairs, and a Murphy bed make for a mostly empty stage, left to be filled by performances. Stephen (Tyler Horn), Ben (Phillip Ballantine), Ida (Carly Fried), and Paul (Steve Reazor) open the show with fast paced repartee during which Ben is marginalized and Stephen quickly shows he is at the top of his game.
Performing with potency but delicacy Horn carries a complex character from a high-flying wheeler-dealer through political and personal upheaval, while showing an unexpected tenderness in romance. His performance is full of energy and a naturalness that exhibits an inborn talent. Through him, the audience finds a powerful point-of-view with the unfolding of relationship twists and turns. Ballantine delivers in his performance of a small role, which is sympathetic and active, even with the obstacle of few lines and less stage time than others. Fried presents a very convincing performance as a snooping, successful reporter who delicately balances a combination of sex appeal and brains to get the story. Reazor, as the boss, carefully creates a compelling combination of self-deprecating humor, ease with his position of power and colossal fear at losing it all.
In her first role with this theater, Katherine Leary, as Molly, offers a fully fleshed out, complex character who compassionately moves through the action as a young intern. Using her womanly wiles to enter into the story, she fuels the action through her interactions. Her portrayal is natural, authentic and tearfully compelling. Appearing as Tom, Ken Mumma demonstrates adroit acting ability from the confines of a wheelchair. His character is convincing as the strong, persuasive, self-assured icon of an influential winning team. Philip Seader, as a waiter, has a short but compelling scene in which he exhibits emergent acting skills. Porter Eidam has a small role which he plays well.
Performed in full light, the audience is not in a darkened portion of the room. It doesn’t feel uncomfortable, as the actors keep the audience fully focused. The only questionable issue with the production is the choice in costuming. One thinks of men and women in suits as powerful to the political world. While Ida, Tom and Ben dress in appropriate attire it is not clear why Stephen and Paul are informally dressed. Molly’s costumes are uncharacteristic of the political world, but not of the character. There are few costume changes during the performance. Set changes are ‘performed’ by Ben and the waiter.
The intrigue of the story keeps the audience interested; while the command of the material by the actors makes it riveting. This show is especially timely in this Presidential election year. With only one more weekend of performances, FARRAGUT NORTH is not to be missed. Not a family show, as the language is coarse and the themes adult, it is recommended for those who want to peek behind the scenes, into the making of a political campaign.
By Beau Willimon
Directed by Leena Devlin
April 20 – 29, 2012
The Tri-County Performing Arts Center & Village Productions
Village Productions’ Collage Series
245 E. High Street
Pottstown, PA 19464