Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's reviews of Miss Saigon and The Panties, The Partner and The Profit:
As with last season's production of The Wolves in Stage 4, the audience sits on the two long sides of the room with the acting space sandwiched in the middle. Luciana Stecconi has created a fluid and elegant scenic design: sliding doors at either end provide access for the actors and the minimalist furnishings. The narrow acting area adds a sense of constriction to Marti Lyons' staging, as the actors must work in a restricted space.
Playwright Sarah Burgess, a native of the Washington area, focuses on newly elected Representative Sydney Millsap (Nehassaiu deGannes), a political neophyte with a lot to prove. As the audience hears repeatedly, Millsap is considered a person to watch in her (unidentified) political party as the first woman and first person of color elected from her district in north Dallas. Her husband was killed in the Iraq War, she has a young son, and she's determined to keep her integrity at all costs, shunning both overtures from lobbyists and "help" from her own party.
The action takes place at a succession of political events where two lobbyists, poised Kate (Kelly McCrann) and striving Lauren (Laura C. Harris), are trying to find a way to get the congresswoman to work with one or both of them. Sydney learns how members of Congress, with their two-year terms, are in "a state of permanent reapplication," forcing them to spend time they could use for their legislative duties either calling wealthy donors to ask for money or making common cause with special interests and letting their PACs cover the costs.
Sydney wonders how she can raise the money she needs without compromising her values. Her rectitude leads her to oppose her own party on a major issue, bringing her into conflict with Senator John McDowell (Elliott Bales), a leading figure in the party. Burgess refuses to simplify the issue with an easy solution, which is both realistic and frustrating.
Harris gives a magnetic performance, projecting a constant sense of simmering anxiety set against deGannes' iron resolve, McCrann's seemingly effortless mastery of the political game, and Bales' folksy charm and moments of surprised anger.