Sunday, July 5, 2009

review - Farragut North

Farragut North
written by Beau Willimon
directed by Doug Hughes
Geffen Playhouse
through July 26
(photo left: Chris Noth as campaign manager Paul;
photo top: Chris Pine as ambitious press secretary Stephen)
credit: Michael Lamont
The most thrilling aspect of Beau Willimon's taut play Farragut North lies in its unpredictability. It opens in a bar where four people - who appear to be friends, or at least, friendly - are casually enjoying chitchat or occupational gossip over drinks. What follows from one beat to the next is a terrifying examination of character ambition and betrayal. This Los Angeles premiere boasts a stellar cast with a particularly amazing performance from Chris Pine as s young press secretary, who by play's end becomes more ruthless than the boss who groomed him - that's Paul, played by Chris Noth, also delivering a superb performance.
In the political arena, not only the candidates, but the entire creative team surrounding them, will do anything it takes to win. We've seen dirty politics in countless films, none more detailed than 1998's Primary Colors. Winning means destroying, so get out of the way, if you're the slightest bit honest! It's a tough game, where players get 'stoneheaded' and heartless. So, why stay with it? Farragut North supplies the only answer: once the knife is in, turn it and, sadly, learn not to look back! Climb the corporate ladder the quickest way possible; it's the American way. We expect it of everyone and encourage it in all our peers. Win at all costs: to be ruthless is in.
Chris Pine as Stephen Bellamy is confidence personified, and when he is down for the count, takes full-throttle revenge even while it means ruining the girl that cares about him. Olivia Thirlby is Molly, that young intern, who despite having slept around, has a sincere interest in Stephen. But alas, fate plays them a losing hand. Pine is a wonder to watch. He has moments of joy, bewilderment, sorrow, and, in his final rage, is as explosive as a time bomb. Thirlby brings great maturity to her role, and her playfulness with Pine is, acting-wise, as good as it gets. Noth makes Paul a scruffy, piggish, despiccable human being that cares for no one. Isiah Whitlock Jr. plays cool and in control as Tom Duffy; Mia Barron gives new meaning to the phrase 'calculating bitch' as Ida Horowicz; Dan Bittner as Ben and Justin Huen as the waiter bring elements of surprise to the table, each in a totally different way, proving that there is no such thing as a small part. No small actors to be found in this ensemble... and Doug Hughes' direction is tight and pulsating.
This is a stunning new work (soon to hit the big screen with Leonardo DiCaprio) that will appeal to everyone, regardless of one's political orientation. It offers a slice of the pie that entices us all.
5 out of 5 stars


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