Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's reviews of Queen of Basel and Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
As Posner explains in his program notes, his portrait of JQA is not meant to be historically accurate. He uses Adams, and his family members and intimates, as a lens through which he examines contemporary U.S. political life, especially where integrity fits in the process. Admirably, he never pushes the parallels too far; he allows one character to suggest stoking fear as a way to gain political dominancethen leaves it there.
Perhaps because JQA had such a complex and multifaceted personality, Posner has written the character to be performed by all four members of the cast at some point. It's easy to follow who is who because, as costumed by Helen Huang, each actor (two men, one white and one African-American, and two women) dresses in a red frock coat when portraying JQA.
While Jacqueline Correa, Phyllis Kay and Joshua David Robinson all perform creditably in their shifting roles, Eric Hissom outshines them with the gravitas and grace he brings to the post-presidency JQA, as well as to his brilliant and chilly father, President John Adams, and JQA's plain-spoken political rival Henry Clay. (Hissom as Clay faces off against Robinson as the presidential JQA; in the next scene, Hissom is JQA and Robinson is his successor, Andrew Jackson.)
The 90-minute play jumps into scenes of JQA's life from 1776, when he was 9 years old, to 1847, when he was 80. Correa is JQA the child and, later, the frustrated young lawyer, Robinson the diplomat and president, Hissom the congressman dealing with unthinkable personal loss, and Kay the elder statesman greeting the rising leaders Abraham Lincoln (Correa) and Frederick Douglass (Robinson).
The enveloping Kogod Cradle is the perfect setting for this imaginative chamber drama. Meghan Raham's set design consists primarily of chairs, a large carved table that represents the Adams dining room or the Oval Office, and small makeup tables for the performers and racks to hold unworn costumes.