State of The Union: A Theatrical Review
The NoHo Arts Center and Interact Theatre Company have a powerhouse success in their current production of “State of The Union,” by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay; two powerful playwrights known for well loved productions like ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘Call me Madam’, ‘Anything Goes’, and ‘Life with Father’. This powerful production, in the same line and approach as Garson Kanin’s ‘Born Yesterday,’ is the truest form of theatre done beautifully.
The NoHo (North Hollywood) Arts Center is perhaps one of the very nicest small theatres in the Los Angeles area, boasting a very welcoming entry area, comfortable seating, phenomenal sets and props, hospitable guest services personal, clean restrooms, and close parking facilities. In the heart of the NoHo Arts District, the NoHo Arts Center stands as the most opulent and professional of the half dozen theatres within walking distance of one another.
‘State of The Union,’ is expertly directed by Anita Khanzadian and produced by Carla Barnett. It caries some powerful insights into the political system in America that can still be seen in today’s governmental antics. Set in 1946, and offering some clear hints to the history of American Politics up to the time of the program, ‘State of The Union’ both speaks to the hypocrisy of the special interest groups and the hope of having a candidate who is not owned by them.
Grant Matthews, played by Matthew Ashford, is a good looking, successful business man from the aircraft industry. He is far from perfect; in fact he is so realistic a character that many will identify with him on a largely personal basis. His wife Mary Matthews, played by D.J. Harner, serves not only as the woman who must re-learn how to love him, but as the only voice of sanity or ethical reality in what becomes a campaign for the Presidency that neither of them ever wanted, but both learn to crave. James Gleason plays James Conover, the Republican parties’ special interest courting hit-man who will do whatever it takes to win, regardless of the scruples that must be crossed in the process. A powerful and quite lovely Tracy Powell portrays Kay Thorndyke, the success seeking newspaper baroness who uses not only her feminine whiles but also her politically brilliant intellect to manipulate and control Grant Matthews.
Add to this a list of very capable and believable supporting cast of actors, not the least of which is the under utilized powerhouse performer Eddie Jones, best known for his roles in motion pictures such as ‘Sneakers’, ‘A League of their Own’, ‘Cadillac Man’, ‘The Rocketeer’, and ‘Seabiscuit’; as well as television roles in such shows as ‘Lois and Clark’, ‘Cheers’, and ‘The Ghost Whisperer’. In this production he portrays Sam Parrish, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and is on stage far less than a man of his ability deserves to be.
This Pulitzer Prize winning political/romantic comedy is done in three separate acts with two different intermissions and has a run time, with breaks of right at three hours. It’s splendid and era appropriate set, props, and costuming allows the older theater attendee to escape into the power of theater of times gone bay. For the theater patron more inclined to enjoy the stronger more intrigue based production, this show will not disappoint, but not likely be at the top of your ‘best productions’ list. This is theater the way it used to be, simple, strong, intrigue filled, in your face, reality based programming that allows you to see into the lives of the characters far better than many productions more common to our current day.
‘State of the Union’ is playing at the NoHo Arts Center, located at 11136 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood, CA 91601 through Sunday October 31, 2010. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM. Tickets are more than reasonably priced and can be reserved by calling (877) 369-9122 or logging on to www.interactla.org.
The production is best summed up with a quote from the script itself, “In this country we play politics. To play politics we’ve got to play ball.” See for yourself, will an otherwise real man, not perfect but not overtly power hungry and wicked either, give into the special interest groups in order to win the highest seat in the land? Will he loose his wife and destroy what ethics he has remaining because of his own pride and ambition? Will he give into the lustful whiles of the temptress newspaper queen in order to find favor with the power brokers of the country? Or, will he finally realize that life is just too short, too important, and his character too valuable to him to destroy all that he believes in, learning to eventually tell the political power houses to take a hike?
Would that we could have this kind of understanding of our political leaders today? ‘State of the Union’, is worth the time, and very deserving of all accolades bestowed upon it. Enjoy.
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