Fair Game

Karl Gajdusek's Fair Game, in only its second production, is currently presented at Pittsburgh's City Theatre. Directed by the City's Artistic Director Tracy Brigden, the show is promoted as a "behind-the-scenes political thriller," but there is nothing particularly thrilling about this production.

Governor Karen Werthman (Cary Anne Spear) appears to be have a good chance of becoming the first female president of the United States. Her son Simon (Ron Menzel), her campaign manager Miranda (Chandler Vinton) and rival politico Senator Bill Graber (John Shepard) all think she needs her path to the White House made clearer through their advice and machinations. Secrets, scandal, lies, and spin doctoring abound as all fall over themselves, and each other, in a scramble to create the next president.

John Shepard and Chandler Vinton
The story is told through two timelines, one of which is a straightforward viewing of what goes on in the "war room" of the Governor's Mansion beginning on Super Tuesday through the two weeks prior to the presidential election. Secondly, we occasionally see scenes which are part flashback / part flashforward, a technique that explains before or afterward related events at Princeton, where Simon puts his teaching position in jeopardy by having an affair with his student Elizabeth (Christine Ryndak). This is an interesting concept, but often the "surprise" of a post-scene has already been so obviously implied, the benefit is lost.

Governor Werthman, an apparently honest and well-intentioned woman surrounded by self-serving scam-artists, is well played by Cary Anne Spear. Werthman succeeded her late husband as Governor and is learning the game of politics the hard way, finding that those closest to her care little for her political integrity. Chandler Vinton, who was stunning in last year's Mercy of a Storm, is suitably driven and steely. Ron Menzel plays Simon as an immature man who is very knowledgeable about politics but doesn't have a clue as to how to sustain a relationship, even with his mother. His paramour Elizabeth has her own agenda, and she is played smartly, if a bit one dimensional, by Point Park College student Christine Ryndak. John Shepard (who seems to be everywhere in Pittsburgh theatre lately, to our benefit) gives the top performance of the evening in the smallest role. His droll, drawling Senator best disguises his ulterior motives and provides an entertaining spark in this cast of unsympathetic characters.

The set by Scott Bradley is disappointing, spoiled as we are by many truly sensational sets at the City. The simplicity is acceptable, but the quality of the creation leaves something to be desired.

Fair Game continues on the City Theatre's mainstage through April 12. Call (412)431-CITY or visit www.citytheatrecompany.org for ticket and schedule information.

Photo: Ric Evans

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-- Ann Miner

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