at the Reuben Cordova
"Power tends to corrupt," wrote Lord Acton in 1887, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely." If there were any doubt about the truth of this British peer's maxim, Don Webster's play about political hoo-ha in America would provide a perfect definition. Not only in politics but also in business, even movie production: The greater the gains, the greater the opportunity for shady dealings, fraud, and corruption.
When Gov. Wiley of Maryland (an excellent Ted Heyck) gets into a spot of trouble with a female employee, his political career is in danger of getting shot down. Spooling around for a lifeline, Billy (a coy Gary Ballard), the governor's wily political consultant, spots a modern-day prince who's passing through Annapolis: Col. Ted Bond (Jens Kohler), an astronaut coming off a two-year space mission, a national hero who might just save the day for the governor.
The path to Bond into their corner and onto their ticket is littered with roadblocks: an activist wife, Sally (beautiful, sharp Lauren Lovett), with a mind of her own; dirty little secrets dug out from Bond's past; the lack of shiny, smiling offspring to give him that young family appeal; and an overweening arrogance that convinces Bond he's a political find and so shouldn't need to ride on the coattails of these weary old pols. Topping all this is Bond's stated belief that voters will appreciate a candidate who will tell the truth. That's fine, says Wiley: "You can spin the truth a hundred different ways." Maneuvering through nasty marital squalls, back-pedaling, under-the-counter dealing, and, finally, offers that can't be refused—including a position for Sally—a new regime is ready to go the course. "We won't change," gushes the co-opted Sally.
The play is somewhat predictable, in the pattern of other plays dealing with political corruption, but this is a very lively production with splendid performances, not forgetting TV interviewer Marcy Martinez (a sharp-tongued Alison Blanchard), and it's written, acted, and directed (by the talented Marcia Rodd) with a great sense of humor.
Presented by Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills. Repertory schedule. Oct. 13-Nov. 11. (310) 364-0535. www.theatre40.org.
Reviewed by Madeleine Shaner