Politics Takes The Stage In Forge Theatre’s FARRAGUT NORTH

by Arnie Finkel

Steve Schulz, Mike Shoeman and Maria Jarrell in a scene from FARRAGUT NORTH at Forge Theatre in Phoenixville, PA through September 22.

The upcoming presidential election is the ideal time for a production of Beau Willimon’s 2008 Pulitzer and Tony award winning political drama FARRAGUT NORTH.   Willimon based his play on Howard Dean’s 2004 run for the Democratic nomination for President, in which Willimon participated.   The title comes from the name of a subway stop in Washington DC that leads to the offices of many DC political pros.  FARRAGUT NORTH was the source material for George Clooney’s film The Ides of March.

The plot revolves around the rise and fall of Stephen Bellamy (Michael Shoeman) wunderkind press wonk for the unnamed and unseen Governor.  We see his character go down a slippery slope from being at the top of his profession to an out of work political hack due to his unbridled ambition and hubris.   Mr. Shoeman gave his all to the role.   We see him disintegrate and grasp at straws to stop the slide.  He pays the price for being disloyal, which is one of the themes of the play.   Shoeman was equal to the demands of the part and even looks good with his shirt off.

As Paul Zara, the campaign manager, Steve Schulz was appropriately harried and explosive.  The character flaws were evident in this excellent portrayal.   Maria Jarrell added a solid presence in Ida Horowicz, a powerful New York Times reporter.

Troy Fisher as Ben showed us his latent ambition and hero worship of Stephen.  He also showed us that you can’t trust anyone in the political underworld, which is another of the play’s themes.  Bryan McVeigh played Tom Duffy, the rival camp’s campaign manager with just enough oily self-confidence to make us understand his duplicity.

Casting Elizabeth Boehm as Molly, a nineteen year old intern was a coup for Director Jeff Cronin.  She has the cute figure necessary for the part and delivers her lines in a teasing and very youthful way.  She’s perfect for the part of the teen temptress.   Ian Alexander made the most of his mini scene as the Waiter.   He spun out the tale of his family in so real a fashion that you could see Steve spinning it out as a press release.

Jeff Cronin can be proud of this production.  His direction kept what is a very wordy script moving along well.  The use of TV screens on the back wall helped keep the mood going and set up some of the many scenes.  Set designer Clem Mirto managed to make the set work well in a very small space.   He was ablely aided by Mike Fitzgerald’s lighting.

This fine production showed us the dirty undercover side of our political process.  The blue language and the self-aggrandizing deals made me squirm in my seat.   Come to think of it, so does the politics of our current election.

By Beau Willimon
Directed by Jeff Cronin
September 7-22 2012
Forge Theatre
241 1st Ave
Phoenixville Pa 19460

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