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LA Theater Review

State of the Union

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A country sharply divided, on the brink of an economic war. A dark-horse candidate heading for the White House who represents the kind of intelligence, transparency, and change the people are looking for, who will speak for the workers and keep the country safe from an ominous global threat on the horizon. Why shouldn't America pin its hopes on this straight-shooting rising star of the Republican party? Yep, it's a GOP hopeful who is looking to shake up the political machinery in Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay's "State of the Union," which won the Pulitzer in 1946. But this look at D.C. machinations of yesteryear—no, all does not go as planned for our boy in Washington—is a wry reminder of how little has changed in the more than 50 years since it was a hit on Broadway (and subsequently made into successful film starring Spencer Tracy).

Director Anita Khanzadian expertly helms this smart and crisp revival, pulling out all the stops in creating a very specific, stylish world: Joel Daavid's set design cleverly frames the small playing area with an almost modern touch; Derrick McDaniel's lighting does the job beautifully; Meagan Evers' period costumes are just plain gorgeous. The performers inhabiting that world bring it to life with honesty, humor, and flair. Don Fisher is smooth and grounded as Grant Matthews, the would-be president with ideas of his own, and spunky stunner D.J. Harner (alternating with Caryn West) is delightful as his estranged wife–turned–political partner. But no political couple is complete without an entourage. As Matthews' advisors, James Gleason, James Calvert, and Tracy Powell deliver.

It's a large cast full of fun performances, and Khanzadian's clean staging and attention to detail pays off. Discussions of backroom dealings, the atomic bomb, mob bosses, and media manipulation are nicely tempered with room-service deliveries and cocktail requests; layers of duplicity are revealed in snappy banter. But while fascinating, "State of the Union" doesn't hit today's audiences particularly hard or make us at all uncomfortable—which may not be quite enough to get some of us through the three-act play's three-plus hour running time. However, we can certainly appreciate the timely reminder: Is there always a choice between votes and justice?

Presented by Interact Theatre Company at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Sep. 24-Oct. 31. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (877) 369-9112. www.interactla.org.

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