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Review: FARRAGUT NORTH at Theatre 68 Arts Complex - The Rosalie

Review: FARRAGUT NORTH at Theatre 68 Arts Complex - The Rosalie

The show is a blistering expose of a political campaign and the tenuous loyalty, fierce ambition and blinding hubris that takes place every day in every office across the country.

Beau Willimon, creator of the American version of "House of Cards," knows politics. And the machinations that go on behind the scenes. His first play, FARRAGUT NORTH, which debuted off-Broadway in 2008, is in the vein of that Kevin Spacey-Robin Wright thriller series and is loosely based on Howard Dean's 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Press secretary Steve (Chris King Wong) is a swaggering twentysomething idealist who thinks he's on top of the world. And he is, to a degree, but given info and an opportunity, will he sell his soul? He takes one fateful phone call that sets his life and career spiraling out of control and suddenly the player is getting played.

Review: FARRAGUT NORTH at Theatre 68 Arts Complex - The Rosalie
K.J. Powell and Chris King Wong

Like with "House of Cards," FARRAGUT NORTH (oddly named after the Washington, D.C., subway stop nearest the political nexus of the city; odd because it means nothing to anyone outside D.C. and the play takes place entirely in Iowa) is a gripping, engrossing thriller. The behind-the-scenes maneuvering isn't dumbed down but the inside-baseball, rat-a-tat-tat dialogue is stated so that a layperson can understand it, which is no small feat considering how complex politics can be. The script, though written 15 years ago when the world was a dramatically different place, is still as relevant as if it had been written today.

The script is aided immeasurably by director Peter Allas, who keeps things tight, moving at a breakneck speed and guiding his actors to memorable performances. Each character is complex with their own inner life and it shows through the intelligence of the performers. Wong's wunderkind Steve is smooth, not smarmy, and even his cockiness comes from his success so it's deserved and thusly reads as confidence. All of which makes Steve a magnetic character just as Wong is a magnetic performer. He has fantastic support from the rest of the ensemble, all of whom are solid, with Jack Esformes as a rival press secretary and K.J. Powell as Ben, Steve's acolyte, particular standouts.

Review: FARRAGUT NORTH at Theatre 68 Arts Complex - The Rosalie
K.J. Powell and Camryn Hamm

The spareness of the black-box theater adds to both the intimacy of the drama and the starkness of the Machiavellian plot twists and character revelations that unfold. There is no music, just a low, ever-present hum that creates a sense of suspense and dread. Political ads from throughout this and the last century play through scene transitions adding an almost comical sense to the proceedings as we can look back on them with a perspective people didn't have when they first ran.

In the end, the show is a blistering expose of a political campaign and the tenuous loyalty, fierce ambition and blinding hubris that takes place every day in every office across the country. FARRAGUT NORTH isn't just topical as a lead-up to the coming elections but in the way it relates to the everyday life of just about every American in the workplace, and that gives it universal power.

FARRAGUT NORTH is performed at the Theatre 68 Arts Complex, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., in North Hollywood through November 5. For tickets, visit www.onstage411.com/farragutn.

Photos by Peter Allas



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