|GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN
Feeding upon the frenzy of primary season, “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man” is as cutting edge today as it was when it originally debuted in 1960. Directed with precision by Michael Wilson, headed by a stellar cast, the production is a perfect platform for the age-old argument on whether or not morality holds any place in the politics. At its core is the question when compromises become “little betrayals, where does it end?”
The legendary James Earl Jones is incredibly powerful as former President Hockstader. Wrangling a southern drawl with the ferocity of the King of the Jungle, Jones once again shows us how truly great performances are crafted. He’s joined by erudite and witty, Bill Russell (John Larroquette) hoping to become the heir apparent, Candice Bergen as Russsell’s long-suffering but still supportive wife, and Michael McKean as a loyal campaign manager.
On the opposing side, scratching up dirt on his opponent is Senator Joe Cantwell (Eric McCormack). He’s every bit the quick talking smooth operator with the deceptive smile who’d just as easily make a deal as stab you in the back. He’s supported by wife, Mabel, (Kerry Butler, in a rare non-musical role that seems tailor made for the blond with the acid delivery.) Additional cast members include Jefferson Mays in a memorable role as a milquetoast with information, the always reliable Dakin Mathews as a snarky senator, and a star turn from Angela Lansbury, draining every drop of juice out her Chairman of the Woman’s Division.
Derek McLane provides ingenious turnstile sets of a variety of pleasingly decorated hotel rooms, along with a clever array of sixties era TV monitors, plus a generous helping of fourth of July bunting to set the circus-like tone for the imminent convention.
Director Wilson keeps things moving at just the right pace. It’s mind boggling that the arguments expressed in the play are now over forty years old and yet nothing seems to have changed in the race to the White House. “The Best Man” is chock-full of biting wit and intelligent dialogue – a timeless, priceless piece of Americana.
By Lesley Alexander
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James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Candice Bergen, Eric McCormack, Kerry Butler, Jefferson Mays, Michael McKean, Angela Lansbury, Curtis Billings, Corey Brill, Tony Carlin, Donna Hanover, Sherman Howard, Olja Hrustic, Bill Kux, James Lecesne, Dakin Matthews, Angelica Page, Fred Parker Jr., Amy Tribbey
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036