Theatre Macon’s 1960s political play ‘The Best Man’ relevant in today’s world

February 14, 2014 

The latest offering by Theatre Macon, Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man,” was written almost a half century ago, but still hits home in today’s political arena. The show’s director, Jim Crisp, called it “as relevant as if it had been written yesterday or today.”

“It was written by Gore Vidal and is about a fictional presidential election,” Crisp said. “What he was really writing about was the Democratic National Convention set in Philadelphia. ... I would classify this as a comedic drama. There are many substantial moments in it, but it is also filled with wonderfully comedic delivery. It was written almost 50 years ago and it ... manages to capture the excitement and vibrancy of the political campaign and convention in a very vivid way.”

“The Best Man” takes a look at two candidates, Bill Russell (played by Tom Morris) and Joe Cantwell (played by Scott Cooley).

“Their wives are major characters as well, and I think it is very interesting that Vidal included them in such a central role,” Crisp said.

Gail Johnson plays Alice Russell and September Carter plays Mabel Cantwell.

“This show takes a very good look at women in politics, the roles of wives of male candidates, and central issues that revolve around women that are still part of the conversation today,” Crisp said. “Ultimately, this is a study of two very different kinds of candidates. Cantwell is rabidly, blindly ambitious, as is his wife. They will stop at nothing and they have gotten hold of information about Russell that they plan to unveil at the convention to hopefully win the nomination. Cantwell has a secret as well, of course. It is politics, after all.”

In the supporting cast, Bryson Holloway plays Dick Jensen, Russell’s aide. Tyler Darnell plays Don Blades, aide to Joe Cantwell. Former-President Hockstader is played by Bob Meloche.

“ ‘The Best Man’ is a fascinating play,” Crisp said. “It will sweep the audience up in the drama. Even though this play is set in 1960, it is incredibly relevant to today’s audiences. I read it a couple years ago and loved it. I almost decided to go with this play last season, but I didn’t want to do it so close to an actual presidential election. I was afraid people would be too fatigued with actual politics.”

Crisp said he hopes that the play will spark a positive conversation in the community about the current state of politics, our political system, “and certainly the actual candidates and who they really are. I believe that we need to have an ongoing national conversation and I think this play will get people thinking about that.”

But aside from the political overtones, he said the performance just makes for great entertainment.

“First and foremost, before it is anything else, it is very entertaining theater and it is a great way to spend an evening,” he said. “It’s something different and we are known for doing things that wouldn’t be done in central Georgia unless we did them. We have an intelligent, thinking audience and they will appreciate this play.”

“The Best Man”

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 14-15, 21-22; 2:30 p.m. Feb. 16; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19-20

Where: 438 Cherry St.

Cost: $20 adults, $18 seniors, $15 students through age 22

Information: 478-746-9485, www.theatremacon.com

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