Against the backdrop of our own local corruption scandal and contentious midterm elections, as well as the winding down of the January 6th hearings, Farragut North provides a look at political sausage-making. Turns out political sausage is made out of people: deeply flawed and twisted people, plus the occasional cockeyed optimist.
The play, presented by Foursome Productions at the recently renovated Theatre 68 Arts Complex in North Hollywood, was written in 2008 by House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon. It follows workers in a hotly contested presidential campaign loosely based on Howard Dean’s. (Willimon worked for Dean and Chuck Schumer.)
Stephen (Chris King Wong) has proven his political chops. At 25, he’s risen to the position of press secretary to a presidential candidate, Morris, who has the lead in the pending Iowa caucuses. Stephen and his mentor Paul (Michael Rubenstone), speechwriter Ben (K.J. Powell) and intern Molly (Camryn Hamm) eat, sleep and breathe poll numbers, strategy and gossip.
New York Times reporter Ida (Amy Motta) veers between friend and foe as she seeks the truth. The gaping maw of “breaking news” requires constant feeding, and one day’s campaign publicity triumph is quickly erased by the next day’s exposed secret.
Tom Duffy (Jack Esformes), a rival campaign manager, throws a monkey wrench into the Morris campaign. He perfectly portrays the cutthroat world of presidential politics: treachery cloaked in camaraderie. David-Edward Reyes does double duty, shining as a reporter and waiter.
Together, this group creates a microcosm of a world that entices those capable of withstanding, and even reveling in, power-mongering duplicity.
Wong is riveting as a cocky insider. Rubenstone convincingly exudes Zara’s paternalistic cynicism. Powell is a silent, stoic—and ambitious—presence. Hamm beautifully embodies the idealist who wants to please everyone, to the detriment of her own power.
Director Peter Allas choreographs the action across smoothly changing sets, which he also designed. Allas also arranged for a fantastic pre-show presentation of campaign songs dating back to George Washington, including Sinatra singing a modified “High Hopes” that mentions “Jack” for the 1960 Kennedy campaign. During scene changes, campaign ads he selected remind us of former real-world winners and losers. It’s a brilliant complement to this clever and compelling show.
Farragut North (named after the subway station closest to many of Washington, D.C.’s lobbyists and spin doctors) runs through Nov. 5 in the Rosalie at Theatre 68 Arts Complex, 5112 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Show times are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm and Saturdays at 3:00p, with a two-hour running time and one intermission,. Tickets are available here. Street parking only.
About Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.
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