Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
Loosely based on former Vermont Governor Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid, Farragut North depicts the strategic and not especially ethical maneuvering of campaign operatives and their incestuous relationship with the press in the days leading up to the Iowa Democratic Caucus in a fictional presidential primary season. In the play, the candidates themselves are never seen. Their objective merits are irrelevant; the only question is how to win. Therefore, the story focuses entirely on the campaign teams.
Willimonperhaps best known for his work on "House of Cards"knows this terrain well, having worked on several national political campaigns in his youth, including Dean's. He titled the play after a Washington, D.C. metro station located close to the White House and the infamous K Street corridor, home to dozens of political consulting firms. If the story sounds familiar, you may have seen the 2011 screen adaptation titled The Ides of March.
The chief protagonist is Stephen Bellamy, Communications Director for Governor Morris's campaign, a 25-year-old wunderkind who already has multiple campaigns under his belt. Endowed by the gods with a unique gift for manipulating the mainstream press, Stephen is a tragic hero in the classic Greek tradition. When his meteoric rise and his personal hubris collide, you can put the popcorn in the microwave.
If Stephen's tactics sometimes test the limits of fair play, his counterpart on the opponent's campaign, Tom Duffy, left those limits in his rear-view mirror long ago. A classic dirty trickster, Duffy will do anything and everything to achieve victory.
As directed by Chris Davies, this briskly paced production is well acted and thoroughly engaging. Among the capable cast, two actors merit special mention. As Stephen and Tom, respectively, David Kurtz and Regg Davidson light up the stage. Kurtz inhabits Stephen's character completely and effortlessly, with terrific stage presence. Davidson brings subtle electricity to the wily Tom, a near burnout with plenty of arrows still in his quiver. Their scenes together are riveting.
Also noteworthy are Melanie Croft's smart set design and the surgical precision of Kendra Harris's lighting design. Together, these designers keep the breaks between scenes remarkably brief. Our metaphorical popcorn never gets cold.
Farragut North continues through September 18, 2016, (Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 2 pm) at the Las Vegas Little Theatre's Fischer Black Box, 3920 Schiff Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89103. For tickets ($15 general admission, $14 students/seniors, $10 subscribers) and information, go to www.lvlt.org or call 702-362-7996.