BWW Reviews: THE MATTY MATTHEWS FOUNDATION at Capital Fringe Explores Political Influence
Many have been lured to Washington with the commitment to use politics to work hard, play by the rules and make things happen - Matty Matthews among them. But whose rules and what things will happen? The Matty Matthews Foundation probes access, relevance and influence in a changing political climate.
Matthews is, as he is quick to say, a fix-it man not a lobbyist. "I don't lobby - I do," explains Matthews. He simply "adjusts the playing field" and makes sure there are no pictures of "boobs on a boat" to trip-up a favored member of Congress. But the world is shifting and Matty's phone does not ring as often as it used to. With nods to Arthur Miller and David Mamet, we see Matty's role diminishing and wonder in what ways this is better and worse for all of us.
We meet Matty Matthews as he stumbles upon two young, new tenants in his Washington office building eagerly plotting their own critical pitch meeting as they create their new business. Jerry (Adrian Vigil) and Willy (Malcom Stokes) use all the key corporate buzzwords as they brainstorm the proper PowerPoint slides for a flashy pitch.
Actor Bill Hurlbut as Matty Matthews has the gravitas and charisma that has us root for the fix-it man even as we deplore his methods. The interplay of new officemates Jerry and Willy is intriguing and pulls us in although Stokes needs to project - important dialog was lost over the occasional loud mechanics of the space. Vigil, as Jerry, does a good job in fleshing out a complicated, multifaceted character.
Matty's crony Mike from the good old days (Jack Wassell) stops by to beg a favor when Mike can no longer get past the political gate-keepers. Actress Carol Calhoun as Margo effectively changes the energy in the room as we contrast a big character who is going places with those who have stalled.
In this allegorical tale, time and technology are fluid in the staging - Matty's rotary dial phone and Margo's smart phone share the scene - underscoring not only that Matty is being left behind but that the desire to curry favor with powerful leaders is timeless though methods and regulation may change.
Before he steps away from politics, Matty wants to give back by creating a foundation so that young people understand how democracy really works. Willy and Jerry are on hand to help set up the foundation as Matty explains his big dream. Matty's naivety and "aw shucks" nature in the latter portion of the play is not effectively supported in John McGrath's script and direction. It is hard to reconcile the Matty who walks around with envelopes of fix-it cash with the Matty who practices his stirring foundation speech in the bathroom mirror. McGrath has some intriguing ideas to explore and, particularly in a fringe production, can push the envelope a bit more to delve into issues of values, ethics and what makes Matty tick.
The Matty Matthews Foundation is the first production of Eagle Wings Theater Company, founded in 2013 by John McGrath and Karen Donato to explore through drama ways that individual choices can affect the larger community.
Runtime: Fifty minutes with no intermission.
"The Matty Matthews Foundation," written and directed by John McGrath, is presented by Eagle Wings Theater Company as part of the Capital Fringe Festival at Warehouse, 645 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20001. Final performance will be on Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 4:15 pm. For tickets please visit Capital Fringe Festival's website by clicking here.
Graphic: Courtesy of Capital Fringe Festival website.