Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Ordinary Days
Washington is the ideal city for The Totalitarians, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company is the perfect group to present Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's outrageous political farce. With a community where politics is both the major industry and a spectator sport, Woolly and director Robert O'Hara understand what buttons to push and how to skew the truth just a little bit past reality.
The setting is a mythical version of Nebraska, where political consultant Francine (Dawn Ursula) lives with her doctor husband Jeffrey (Sean Meehan). Francine's client is Penelope Easter (Emily Townley), a former roller derby champ who married a rich man, raised several children, and now has decided to seek political office. Unfortunately, she has nothing much to say and is hopeless when it comes to reaching an audience. "She's waiting for me to tell her what she believes in," Francine explains to Jeffrey.
The situation suddenly shifts when Francine puts just the right words into Penny's mouth. Maybe the candidate isn't making any concrete proposals on the stumpas she proclaims, "I am not my opponent, and that is who I am"but the crowds react positively and pretty soon both women are drunk on power (and other things).
Meanwhile, nice guy Jeffrey can't bear to tell a young patient, Ben (Nicholas Loumos), that he has only a short time to live. Ben is a radical activist convinced that sinister forces are preparing to seize power statewide, and Jeffrey is looking for something to believe in while Francine is off changing the world.
Townley gives a riveting, hilarious performance as a woman who knows what she wants for herself and is determined to get it. (Frank Labovitz's costumes bring Penny into even sharper focus. The skin-tight jeans! The sequined monogram! The cowboy boots!) Ursula is the other live wire, forced to balance whether her ambition justifies promoting an obviously unqualified candidate. (Not that anyone would really do that...)
Woolly Mammoth is joining theaters in New Orleans and San Francisco in showcasing this play through the National New Play Network's Rolling World Premiere program.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company