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Monday, October 18, 2010

State of the Union -Strawdog Theatre (Theatre Review)


Seeing this play called “State of the Union” the other night reminded me of this really funny, older joke: What’s the opposite of progress? CONgress!

The thing that’s funny about it is that the United States Congress is not very good at getting things done and also because they don’t change away from that. Political cartoons are also a way to laugh.

If I can state plainly, politics have always been bad for people. It has always been a really rancid profession. People who join politics often have to make compromises and say things they really don’t mean because that’s how things really get done in Washington D.C. (a place that has less attractive people than Los Angeles). Newt Gingrich is attractive, though, so perhaps politicians who live in Washington D.C. are ugly on the inside. Hahahahaha!!!!

If I can state REALLY plainly, I don’t put my personal faith in anyone who is in a political party. No Republicans or Wigs or Democrats either (if you can think of any more, let me know). I really can’t identify with them because they are inherit and based. And don’t even get me started on Barack Obama who is our President right now and who once I drank a lot in support of. Hahahaha!!!!!

These reasons are why “State of the Union” (a clever title) is such a good play.

Excellently directed by Jeff Button (I’m pretty sure it was a typo in the press packet), the dialogue flies past and keeps you on the edge of your seat (more on that later).

The play is about Grant Matthews—played really stone-faced and with real subtle undercurrents by Michael Dailey—who becomes tangled in the Republican machine. The Republicans are played really well by BF Helman (who is sinister) and Anderson Lawferson (who constantly delivers comedy) as Jim Conovoer and Spike McManus, respectively. Kristina Johnson appears as the beautiful, soft, tough as nails newspaper boss Kay Thorndyke (yes, that’s really her name!!!). Kristina is beautiful.

Grant and Kay have been having an affair because Grant is estranged from his wife, Mary. From what I understand, this subject was really taboo at the time. It ended up winning the Pulitzer prize in spite of this, though, and it continues to march onward.

Mary, played with real moxie and grace by Kendra Thulin (whom I am in love with now), is asked by Conover to join Grant on a nationwide speaking tour. On this tour, she becomes the real conscience of the play, warning her idealist husband against the conniving of Spike and Conover. Of course, Grant becomes more and more famous on the speaking circuit because of his oratory skills and connection with the real people. But, Conover couldn't care less for people, he wants Grant to win the only thing that counts: votes.

I don’t want to spoil any more for you (like some critics have a habit of doing), but I’ll just say that you have no idea what’s going to happen!!!

It’s really great to see the wheelings and dealings of back room politicians. It reminds you that they’re real people, too. You can imagine them talking like this back then and also today, too. Some things never change. The play has wondrous costumes and the other actors are all really, really good.

My one complaint (if I can even call it that) is with the seats. Strawdog really should get some better seats in their theater. I don’t know if this is a part of the “Chicago style” that keeps getting talked about, but if they don’t shape up soon, no one is going to want to sit and watch a play there. It’s not an excuse, folks.

This is a great play that stands the test of time. The whole group is really, really good and have standout performances (including Kate Harris and Samantha Gleisten).

State of the Union: A-


-John Allen Taflan

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