Tuesday, August 21, 2007

PLAY: "Fair Game"

Parts of Karl Gajdusek's Fair Game are ripped from the headlines, which is to be expected of any realistic political play. But what makes Fair Game more than fair is the way that Gajdusek develops his story. There's the immediate lead of Governor Karen Werthman's run for president, and then the juicier story of her son's inappropriate relations with one of his Princeton students, Elizabeth. There's also a colorful sidebar about Simon's research into the spin of history, innovative graphics (which is to say, direction) by Andrew Volkoff, and a deeper story that reveals secrets about Karen's campaign manager, Miranda. The play also doesn't feel like news: by cleverly cutting from the scandal to the encounters, Fair Game maintains a rhythm that makes us constantly reassess our opinions of the characters. Late-breaking news, if you will, from the past.

The first act of this production is excellent, filled as much by subtle, quiet scenes that observe the political machine as by boisterous historical lectures from Simon or the underfoot love story. At first, the second act suffers from jumping several months ahead, to an implausible (albeit amusing) entrance from Karen's opponent, Senator Bill Graber. Even still, the words run like butter: this lengthy play is one smooth feature article.

While the lines may be slick, they're not rehearsed (save the ones used in debate): instead, the actors stretch for answers, particularly Chris Henry Coffey (Simon), a quick-witted combination of Michael J. Fox and Nathan Fillion, jumping to statements only to backpedal to what he really meant. So too with Sarah-Doe Osborne, who plays Elizabeth as a rebel in search of a cause, flitting from one passion or emotion to the next, looking for the one that fits her best. As the confident campaign manager, Caralyn Kozlowski is also worth mentioning, particularly for the occasional slips in her imperturbable armor and her always graceful recoveries.

The scenes also show a lot of diversity: they may have a touch of melodrama, but they avoid the patented patter of, say, Aaron Sorkin, and present a story that's far more intimate than similarly themed films like The Contender. Here it's not all politics: it's also games of "Name That Inaugural Speech" and "Spin the Bottle"; it's as much preparing to face the press as it is actually facing your mother.

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