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Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Port City Playhouse Farragut North

By • Sep 22nd, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Farragut North
Port City Playhouse
Lee Center for Performing Arts, Alexandria, VA
Through October 3
2:15 w/ one intermission
$18/$16 Seniors and students
Reviewed September 17, 2010

The overall feeling of Port City’s Farragut North is that of a classic black-and-white intrigue. Melodramatic acting, scratchy sound effects, and Bond-esque sets are incongruous with the sharp, emotionally nuanced–and very modern–script. That being said, Director Eddie Page has crafted a production with its own distinct flavor that anyone who follows politics should be able to appreciate.

Set in the days leading up to a presidential primary caucus in Iowa, Farragut North follows Stephen Bellamy, 25 year-old press secretary for presidential hopeful Paul Zara. Bellamy’s internal conflict between ambition and loyalty has serious personal and professional consequences. Beau Willimon’s drama explores the inner workings of a fictional political campaign and its pressures, without getting tangled up in an overt partisan bent.

Farragut North‘s set was designed by Robin Parker. There were few actual set pieces, but the minimalist set was still very evocative. However, the bar scene produced the feeling of a Dick Tracy mystery that felt out of sync with the show.

Subtle, very effective use of gels by lighting designer Ari McSherry filled out scenes where set pieces did not and, altogether, the visual effect was very complete, especially in the first act. The lights were not so definitive in act two, which left scenes looking incomplete. Overall, the lights and sets complimented each other very well and generally created balance on the stage.

David Correia utilized an interesting sound scheme for transitions between scenes. Instead of using “mood” music like many designers, Correia opted for ambient sounds to literally set the tone for the following scene. Unfortunately, the sound effects, like the bar set, sometimes seemed reminiscent of a 40′s or 50′s drama because of the scratchy quality of the recordings.

Unfortunately, everything was very over-acted in first act. Stiff, unnatural, and pronounced cadence to every line delivery was like watching a stage full of William Shatners. By the second act, the actors had managed to find their personal rhythm and act two had a better tone overall. However, the emotional tension started on a high note, so the dynamic range was limited to intense, very intense, and trying-to-be-intense-but-emotionally-burned-out. What should have been the most powerful scenes had the same force as the rest of the show.

Adam Downs’ performance as Stephen Bellamy was reasonable, but lacked truthfulness. Downs acting appeared as just going through the play’s paces without any thoughtful engagement with his character.

Dan Beck, playing Paul Zara, was the worst culprit for delivering every line the same way. Instead of believing that his character was capable of an amazing political overthrow, he exuded a shady aura. I certainly wouldn’t have voted for the man Beck portrayed.

The most distinctive character was that of Tom Duffy, played by Cal Whitehurst. While he was guilty of the same melodramatic cadence to his delivery, Whitehurst managed to make his character believable. The delivery of his final lines, spat in Bellamy’s face, made the audience cheer.

Artfully crafted, Farragut North provides a unique perspective on politics–the things we all know happen, but rarely hear about–presented in a little over two hours. The production has some great artistic elements, though they might not appeal to everyone. If you’re looking for a serious politically-driven show with the feel of a TV drama (and you don’t mind adult themes and language), I would be willing to recommend Farragut North.

Director’s Notes

Farragut North had its world premier by the Atlantic Theatre Company in New York City at the Linda Gross Theatre on November 12, 2008. Chris Noth, of “Law and Order” fame, played Paul. Warner Brothers Pictures will be filming the movie version, with pre-production shooting set for February 2011. The movie will be produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney, and Clooney will also be directing. The cast will include the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, and Chris Pine.

Living in Washington, D.C. gives each of us a unique perspective on national politics. It has been said that “all politics is local;” in many cases, “all politics is personal.” My political intrigue has always been how one choice can change the outcome of the bigger picture. Events like what happened to Gary Hart, who was considered a frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination until various news organizations reported that he was having an extramarital affair. In an interview with the New York Times, Hart responded to the rumors by daring the press corps: “follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serous. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’ll be very bored.” End of story … Donna Rice! And then there was Jennifer Flowers, who came forward during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential election campaign, alleging that she had had a twelve-year relationship with him. Flowers at first denied that she had an affair with Clinton, but later changed her story.

You see, all politics is personal. Each of us make “choices” in life, and in politics they can change the course of a campaign. So you think you know politics…? Sit back and enjoy this political drama and decide how you would spin these choices.

My deepest gratitude to the cast and crew for presenting a provocative and thought provoking story of “trust and loyalty.”

Cast

  • Stephen Bellamy: Adam Downs
  • Ida Horowitz: Shelagh Roberts
  • Paul Zara: Dan Beck
  • Ben: Erik Harrison
  • Molly Pearson: Tabitha Rymal
  • Tom Duffy: Cal Whitehurst
  • Rosa: Isidora Sasser
  • Frank: Bill Byrnes

Crew

  • Producer: Robert Kraus
  • Director: Eddie Page
  • Asst. to the Director: Susie Poole
  • Stage Manager: Charles N. Dragonette
  • Asst. Stage Manager: Julia Harrison
  • Costume Design: Paul Morton
  • Properties: Deb Green Special Props Artist: Steven C. Haber
  • Set Decoration: Rachel Albrts and Robin Parker
  • Set Design: Robin Parker
  • Set Construction: Pete Sudkamp
  • Assisted by Nick Lamb and Josh Lamb
  • Set Painting: De Nicholson-Lamb
  • Assisted by Chris Hardy, Julia Harrison, Robert Kraus, Dick Schwab, and Jon Poole
  • Lighting Advisor: Dick Schwab
  • Sound Design: David Correia
  • Hair and Makeup: Paul Morton
  • Wardrobe: Barbara Helsing and Kim Galvan
  • Stage Combat Choreography: Steve Lada
  • Stage Hands: Denna Barlish, Jenissa Haidari, Satya Bommagowni, and Fareeha Aziz
  • Videographer: George Alberts
  • Cast and Props Photography: Ari McSherry
  • Production Photography: Jacqueline Mathis

Disclaimer: Port City Playhouse provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review., and PCP is running paid advertising on ShowBizRadio.net.

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is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.

2 Responses »

  1. Paul Zara is not the candidate, he’s the campaign manager.

  2. What exactly is a Bond-esque set? I’m thinking techno and whiz-bang – which this one is not. In fact, the lighting is more of the set than the set pieces it illuminates. Still, to be fair, most reviewers don’t even notice the tech side. But, Bond-esque….?