Strawdog Theatre Company presents
STATE OF THE UNION
At 3829 N. Broadway
Written by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsey
Directed by Geoff Button
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm, Sundays at 7pm
Thru November 13th
Running Time: Two hours and forty-five minutes includes 2 (ten minute) intermissions
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Democrats verses Republicans, power of the media, cheating husbands; the 1946 Pulitzer Prize-winning political comedy is still politics-as-usual 64 years later. Strawdog Theatre Company presents STATE OF THE UNION, written by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsey. A successful businessman inspires the American dream. He is being courted by the Republican Party. He is in bed with the media...literally! And the voters love him. The presidency is within his grasp. What stands in the way of victory? His wife and himself! 'The Mrs.' champions the truth-talking, idealistic man she married as the potential candidate. Her husband is having an identity crisis. Which version of himself is electable and livable? Although set in 1946, change the hairstyles, drink orders and pantyhose, STATE OF THE UNION represents the political games played to win in 1946 or 2010!
STATE OF THE UNION is the cleverly named construction of a candidate verses the deconstruction of a marriage. Under the direction of Geoff Button, the fast talking ensemble goes in circles to get to the oval. Button moves the action like well-orchestrated players in a game! Old fashion, scotch-n-soda, martinis extra dry, the party is tight! They are well under the influence of special interest groups. Not present in the first scene, Mary Matthews is introduced as a shrew-of-a- wife. Kendra Thulin (Mary) dispels that notion in the first moments of her appearance. She is a class act with vulnerability and strength. Thulin is splendid with a 'Did that sound bitchy? I hope it does!' malice. She fights the political machine for her husband's soul and hamburger with equally zesty determination. If this was a DVD, I'd play the outtakes of her drunken persecution of dinner guests. Since its live theatre, I settle for chuckling over Thulin's coffee-chugging as Kate Harris (Mrs. Alexander) recaps the supper antics. Harris is hilarious. In a minor role, she's more than 'of minor interest'! Harris is pure Sazerac, a sweet southern drink with a bite! She amusingly continues to cut off a talkative Jim Heatherly (Judge) to act as her personal mixologist.
Kristina Johnson (Kay) plays mistress with sexy, self-sufficiency. Johnson is in-control and unapologetic. Despite playing both sides of
business and love to the best advantage, Michael Dailey (Grant) pontificates with great likability. Dailey seems almost victim-esque when he compromises and contradicts playing to the favor of the room. For the boys' club, BF Helman (Conover) commands as the smooth-talking (although hard-to-hear) party chair. Speaking in solemn wisdom, Helman is deliciously manipulative playing on the weak for gain. Energetically spinning the story, Anderson Lawfer (Spike) could be Jimmy Olsen's older brother. He's an enthusiastic newspaperman angling the one liner like a front page headline. He garners the laughs for his well-delivered zingers and exaggerated movements.
STATE OF THE UNION is timeless in it's plot and costume. To set the 1940's vibe, Costume Designer Joanna Melville draws a line... up the leg. Fedoras, gloves, suits, cocktail dresses, details transport the audience to an era where people dressed to get drunk. Topping off the ladies' stylish looks, Melville bobby-pins the curls for retro hair-DOs. The smartly dressed A-Listers look the part to rule the world...or at least the nation. STATE OF THE UNION continues to ask the ageless question, 'Who wants to be President?' And supplies the resounding answer, 'I'd rather be tight!' It transcends from "Primary Colors" to "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" with a splash of "Arthur." STATE OF THE UNION addresses our nation's ongoing problems with humor, intelligence and plenty of liquor.