The fall of the Berlin Wall, and with it the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Spies whose allegiances are murky at best. A father's apparent suicide and a son's quest to discover the truth. An affair that may or may not have led to said death. Betrayal lurking in every corner. Die-hard fanatics clinging desperately to their faith. Sounds like the plot of a James Bond movie or a John LeCarré novel, no? Actually, these are the ingredients that make up The Last True Believer, a new drama by Robert William Sherwood receiving its world premier at The Seattle Rep.
In The Last True Believer, a young American named Kevin Anderson (Coby Goss) is obsessed with his father's apparent suicide, which took place a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. During his investigations, Kevin not only discovers that his father was murdered, but that he had a shadowy second life as a leader of a spy network. His travels bring him to England, where he confronts a couple that were close to his parents, a retired British Foreign Office worker named Philip Daniels (Terence Rigby) and his wife, Margaret (Lisa Harrow), presenting them with evidence and accusations.
Part mystery, part socio-political diatribe, The Last True Believer is unfortunately an uneven and ultimately didactic mess of a drama chock-full of clichés and telegraphed 'surprises.' Even worse, it has the subtly of a sledgehammer and pounds every point across repeatedly in overly long monologues and repetitious follow-up scenes.
The show is partially redeemed by some wonderful acting on the part of Rigby and Harrow, who oftentimes work against the script in an attempt to give the piece some much-needed arc and development. As Margaret, Lisa Harrow manages to create an Albee level character out of material that is woefully inadequate and unsupportive of such an endeavor. She fairly trembles in fury upon discovering the truth about her husband and their marriage. As the emotionally walled up, intellectually rigid Philip, Terence Rigby manages the near impossible feat of showing depth in a character that displays little or no emotion.
Set designer Michael McGarty has created a ponderous magic-box that opens, splits and descends, resembling Aida by way of Sunset Boulevard. While visually stunning, the time it takes to accomplish its nifty tricks robs the show of what little dramatic build it possesses. The music by Peter Golub resembles Penderecki meets Laura, giving the piece a jarring, eerie tone.
Overall, the show needs a great deal of judicious editing and refocusing to make it work. Right now it is a disappointing mess of rhetoric sorely in need of some good old-fashioned cloak and dagger action to liven things up.
The Last True Believer runs through March 24th at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. For more information visit www.seattlerep.org