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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE BEST MAN
at Gerald Schoenfield Theater

GRAND SALUTE
By ROBERT L. DANIELS

  Ph: Joan Marcus

Tennesse Williams praised Gore Vidal as a modern Voltaire. “There is less dissimulation in his brilliant mind than almost any other writer-friend I have known,” Williams noted, adding, “He had a lighthearted way of going along with the world.” Lights were dimmed on Broadway, and performances of The Best Man at the Gerald Schoenfield Theater have been dedicated to the memory of Vidal, the novelist and playwright who was once quoted as saying that he would live to be quite old. He died on July 31 at the age of 86.
 
It is fitting that The Best Man has been revived in an election year. The Tony-winning 1960 political drama remains a crisply and keenly constructed play. Vidal, who was born into a politically driven family, had always been obsessed by the political landscape. The play is as vital and topical as today's headlines. The production, with a few cast changes, remains as neatly sharp and convincing as it did last spring.
 
James Earl Jones as former President Arthur Hockstader continues to give a studied, polished performance of the amiable and wise dying leader. John Larroquette continues as Secretary Russell in a likable, forceful and witty performance. His portrait is the glue that holds everything together with distinction.
 
The new additions find John Stamos as the rival candidate. He is a shallow bigot and somewhat of a charlatan who appears to believe his own vicious propaganda. His approach is confident and slick. A wonderfully blowsy addition is veteran Elizabeth Ashley as a national committee chairwoman. She tosses sage advice with amusing flair. Kristin Davis is now playing the wife of the rival candidate with a kind of squeaky dumb-blonde amusement.
 
Cybil Shepherd as the candidate's well-bred wife looks ever so lovely, but seems a little stiff and tentative in the role. I'm certain she will loosen up in her Broadway debut. I must add that the performance that still rings true and very nearly steals the whole evening is that of Jefferson Mays as a devious li'l unscrupulous and meddlesome opportunist.
 
The Best Man remains a sturdy tribute to the theater of the golden age and a grand salute to Gore Vidal.

 


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