THE CITY OF CONVERSATION at Ensemble Theatre Company

THE CITY OF CONVERSATION at Ensemble Theatre Company
Photo by David Bazemore

Political negotiations aren't limited to the 9-5 work day on Capitol Hill: after-hours social events, like Washington D.C. socialite Hester Ferris's (Sharon Lawrence) dinner parties, bring guests from both sides of the political agenda together for bipartisan discussions in a less formal setting than the Senate floor. Hester and her sister, Jean (Meredith Baxter), are well known for their hospitality across the political divide, but their tolerance is tested when Hester's son brings his Reaganite girlfriend home for a visit, and the conversation gets personal. While Hester has worked tirelessly to move the liberal agenda forward, she must reprioritize her mission in the face of a social-political divide that threatens her relationship with her son. In an era defined by a population split by divergent ideologies and heated, propagandistic rhetoric, in which productive discussion about political issues seems impossible, Ensemble Theatre Company presents Anthony Giardina's The City of Conversation, a play that brings both sides of the political agenda to the dinner table.

A recent nominee of the Outer Critics Circle & Drama Desk award for Best Play, The City of Conversation is, according to actress Meredith Baxter, a beautifully constructed piece that highlights both political and familial drama. "That's what makes it so human," Baxter says. "Yes, the political stuff is interesting and important--but there's a family at risk." Spanning 30 years and six presidents, The City of Conversation offers a short history of the liberal/conservative rift in this country from the late 70s into the modern day. Actress Sharon Lawrence notes the significance of a play that promotes dialogue and open-mindedness, especially in our current, contentious political scape. She also emphasizes the importance of a play driven by three strong female characters. "These hostesses understand that we all come from different places," Lawrence says, describing these women as characters who recognize that they all do not have to fit into the same social mold.

THE CITY OF CONVERSATION at Ensemble Theatre Company
Photo by David Bazemore

Besides being marked by potent political discourse, The City of Conversation is a dialogue-heavy theatrical work that Baxter and Lawrence say requires attention from performers and audience alike. "It feels like downhill skiing," says Lawrence. "It takes great energy and makes hairpin turns. You have to lean into it and push out....The course is laid out by the author, and you have to trust the director--someone who really understands the material--and layer it with human emotion." The City of Conversation offers viewpoints from both sides of the political spectrum, and Baxter encourages audiences to see the show with an open mind, regardless of their political leanings. Ensemble's The City of Conversation celebrates the passion and courage of political evocateurs fighting to improve the country and the world for a better future.

Featuring: Meredith Baxter, Sharon Lawrence, Timothy Brown, Matthew Grondin, Richard Hoag, Sally Hughes, Bjorn Johnson, and Kathy Marden.

Written by Anthony Giardina
Directed by Cameron Watson

2/8 - 2/25
Tues-Sat @ 8 p.m.
Sun @ 2 p.m.

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From This Author Maggie Yates

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