Reviewed by Dana Martin
The Odyssey Theatre
Through May 21st
Farragut North, named after a D.C. metro stop peppered with political failures and has-beens, slugs its way through the thorny landscape of backroom primary politicking where power grabbing and moral corruption unsurprisingly reign supreme. Playwright and House of Cards creator Beau Willimon stays well within his comfort zone as Farragut North explores the slick and slimy inner workings of presidential campaigning.
The action centers around ambitious young press secretary Stephen Bellamy (Jack Tynan), campaigning for the never-seen presidential hopeful, Governor Morris. Stephen wastes no time schmoozing with strangely desperate political reporter Ida Horowicz (Jennifer Cannon), while barking orders at observant subordinate Ben (Adam Faison) and devising whispered schemes with campaign manager Paul (Geoffrey Lower). An ill-fated meeting with rival campaign manager Tom Duffy (Andy Umberger) swiftly leads to his political undoing. Subordinate Ben assumes the role of our ousted protagonist. Cue next episode.
Tynan strikes the right balance as an equal parts charming and dislikable protagonist. He easily wields a smug what’s-in-it-for-me sensibility, whether in the backroom or the bedroom. As the play progresses, his boyish charm is usurped by his increasingly despicable behavior. Margaret Fegan provides a breath of fresh air as assertive intern Molly Pearson, and Andy Umberger delivers a solid and surprisingly sympathetic performance as rival Tom Duffy. A cameo performance by Francisco J. Rodriguez delivers a much needed dose of heart in an otherwise heartless story.
Director Cathy Linder serves the play well by keeping the staging simple and straightforward. The ensemble establishes a swift clipped pace throughout, despite some clunky scene changes. Sound designer fills in scenes appropriately with subtle ambiance, and a lighting design by Kelley Finn at times creates a feeling of uneasiness.
The most glaring problem is the play itself: the script lacks proper denouement and character development. What did the characters learn or gain? Nothing, apparently, unwittingly leaving the impression of a doomed and vicious cycle of campaign trail dysfunction. Ultimately, it’s a play that fully counts on the audience’s lingering political fervor, which these days feels more like burnout.
The Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles; Fri- Sat, 8 p.m. (no Friday performances May 5th & 12th); Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 21st; http://www.plays411.com/farragut or (323) 960-7788. Running time: two hours with a 15- minute intermission.