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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
FARRAGUT NORTH
at the Atlantic Theater Company

PRIMARY COLORS
By BILL STEVENSON


Now that the prolonged Presidential race has finally ended, most Americans are probably sick to death of campaigns. Fortunately, Beau Willimon's Farragut North, a behind-the- scenes look at a fictional battle for the White House, is briskly entertaining. It also seems like an accurate depiction of primary season. Its verisimilitude probably stems from the fact that 31-year-old Willimon worked for Chuck Schumer and Howard Dean while in his twenties.

Farragut North's central character is Stephen ( John Gallagher Jr.), a political veteran at age 25 who now serves as press secretary for an unseen Presidential candidate named Morris. Stephen's boss is campaign manager Paul (Chris Noth), and together they're trying to ensure that Morris wins the Iowa primary. When Stephen meets with Tom ( Isiah Whitlock Jr.), a rival candidate's campaign manager, he learns that Morris may not be the forerunner after all. Things quickly get ugly, with jovial drinks at a bar giving way to backstabbing and double-crossing. Stephen, who considers himself a player, ends up getting played by others. While some plot developments can be predicted, Willimon throws in a few clever twists that keep things interesting right to the end.

Director Doug Hughes keeps the dog-eat-dog action moving along nicely. Even the scenic changes, featuring Joshua White's projections of TV-news footage accompanied by David Van Tieghen's music, are lively. And the actors are so good they almost have us believing we're watching a real campaign's backroom machinations. Gallagher ( a Tony winner for Spring Awakening ) has the requisite energy to play a fast-talking boy wonder and proves he can carry a straight play. Noth's role is smaller, but the actor (who will probably always be known as Sex and the City's Mr. Big), commands our attention whenever he's on stage. Whitlock is suitably convincing as troublemaking Tom, Katie Blumberg makes a credible New York Times reporter, Olivia Thirlby is sexy yet smart as an intern, and Tom Bittner is just right as an even younger boy wonder. Otto Sanchez does double duty as a waiter and a West Coast reporter.

Political junkies are sure to get a kick out of Willimon's theatrical take on cutthroat campaigning. But even those who couldn't wait for the 2008 election to be over will find Farragut North surprisingly enjoyable-especially compared to the endless primaries we suffered through last winter and spring.

 


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