BWW Review: CONSCIENCE-A World Premiere Play by Joe DiPietro Captivates and Informs at George Street Playhouse
"When there is an opening, there is room for an opportunist."
By Senator Joseph McCarthy in Conscience
This is the time to see Conscience, a gripping world premiere play by the Tony Award winning playwright, Joe DiPietro. It is being performed through March 29th at George Street Playhouse (GSP) housed in the beautiful theatre complex, New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC). With the exceptional direction of the Playhouse's Artistic Director, David Saint and featuring an outstanding cast of four thespians, Conscience presents a slice of history, one that will resonate with a modern audience. The show portrays an insightful view of McCarthyism while thoughtfully addressing themes of women in politics, the dangers of demagoguery, and how truth and reason must prevail in society.
Set in the early 1950's in Washington, D.C., Conscience tells of the conflict between Senator Margaret Chase-Smith, Republican from Maine and Senator Joseph McCarthy, Republican from Wisconsin. The story also depicts the senators' relationships to their loyal aides. Joe has the unquestioning support of his adept and adoring assistant, Jean Kerr. Maggie is the only woman serving in the Senate at the time, and she relies on the advice of a dedicated, knowledgeable young man, William Lewis Jr. Although the two senators are from from the same party, their different approach to politics and their constituencies is evident. Maggie, is a considerate, poised woman, full of integrity, while Joe is bombastic, egocentric, and strives to win over the public at any cost. The rift between Maggie and Joe intensifies on June 1, 1950, when Maggie delivers her "Declaration of Conscience" on the Senate floor, condemning Joe's fervent Anti-Communist movement. Even with little or no support from her fellow senators, Maggie bravely expresses her moral conviction eloquently, and speaks of the principles that are later recognized by much of America.
The four actors master DiPietro's complex characters along with the play's razor sharp dialogue. The company moves quickly and seamlessly through scenes that occur in offices, the Capital Subway System, campaign stops, and more. The cast includes Harriet Harris as Senator Margaret Chase-Smith; Lee Sellars as Senator Joseph McCarthy; Mark Junek as William Lewis, Jr.; and Cathryn Wake as Jean Kerr. They bring to life moments in Conscience that both intrigue and inform. GSP audiences will admire this fine, accomplished troupe as they portray the dynamic political story on the New Brunswick stage.
The open, modern set, brilliantly lit, is ideal for the staging of Conscience. The Creative Team includes set design by Jim Youmans; lighting design by Joe Saint; costume design by Brian Hemesath; sound design by Scott Killian; and hair and wig design by Charles LaPointe. The Production Manager is Christopher J. Bailey; Production Stage Manager is Samantha Flint; and Casting is by McCorkle Casting, Ltd.
Joe DiPietro's play is being presented at the best time possible with Women's History Month, the current divisive political landscape in our country, and a major election in 2020. Conscience is a play that will provoke many interesting and productive conversations for its audience members. See it while you can!
Tickets for Conscience by George Street Playhouse at NBPAC are available by visiting https://georgestreetplayhouse.org/ or by calling Patron Services at 732.246.7717. The show is being performed in the Arthur Laurents Theater of NBPAC located at 11 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick in the heart of the city's bustling entertainment and restaurant district. NBPAC is very convenient to parking and mass transit options.
Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson