Theatre Review: ‘Farragut North’ at Silver Spring Stage

Jonathan Feuer as Stephen Bellamy and Mario Font as Tom Duffy. Photo courtesy of Silver Spring Stage.

With election season in full swing–snarky pundits, attack ads, and ever fluctuating polls dominating the media–Silver Spring Stage offers a timely production of the popular political drama, Farragut North.  Written by playwright, Beau Willimon, North offers a scintillating inside look into the world of political campaigns and the lives of the doggedly ambitious people who run them. Set against a presidential democratic primary, Farragut North tracks the life of Stephen Bellamy (Jonathan Feuer), a junior campaign manager who is not above getting his hands dirty in order to guarantee his candidate a victory.  However, when a series of missteps throws the arrogant, political wunderkind off course, not only must he contend with his heavyweight colleagues for redemption, but he must also come to terms with his own morality.  Thus, whether you loathe the government or live for CNN and Politico commentary, this play is rife with enough scandal and debauchery to entertain and surprise nearly any adult audience.

With Jonathan Feuer at the helm, the ensemble cast of Farragut North collectively shines, each member holding their own during both comedic and intense scenes.  Feuer who is on stage during the entire play (talk about stamina!), shows no signs of fatigue and embodies the mounting tension, frenetic energy and not to mention hunky good looks of leading man Stephen Bellamy.  And despite the character’s obvious shortcomings, Feuer injects just enough charisma and humanity into an otherwise difficult and potentially unlikeable character.

Equally strong are performances by Leta Hall as persistent New York Times journalist Ida Horowicz and Bill Hurlbut as Paul Zara, senior campaign manager and Stephen Bellamy’s brash and constipated (yes, constipated!) boss.  Both deliver the perfect blend of sass, comedic timing, and tongue in cheek humor that frequently brighten the play’s weightier moments. From the very first hilarious scene, Hall and Zara deliver their lines with a ruthless, knowing eye and a relaxed confidence necessary for each role.

Jonathan Feuer as Stephen Bellamy and Janey Robideau as Molly Pearson. Photo by Harvey Levine

Cast mate Janey Robideau is an essential mention as the seductive and mysterious campaign intern, known only as Molly.  In this role, Robideau, an absolute beauty in her own right, conjures Jessica Rabbit with her auburn hair, pouty expressions, and slow cat-like strides as she interacts with Feuer.  However, there are moments–perhaps intentional–in which Robideau appears nervous in her near nudity, though the end result befits the susceptible teenage character she portrays.  In other words, it works. That said I’ve a sneaking suspicion that audiences will swoon right along with testosterone laden Stephen Bellamy  (Jonathan Feuer)  over  Robideau’s sexually charged, yet delicate depiction of the sly, secretive employee.

In addition, the production’s most colorful performance comes from Mario Font, who portrays Tom Duffy, the skilled, but wily campaign manager for the opposition. As a snake stalking his prey, Font slithers and hisses each line, much to the audience’s amusement, and is at once stone-faced and comedic, making it delightfully unclear as to whether Duffy is Bellamy’s friend or enemy. Reminiscent of the actor John Malkovich, Font is a bit of a quirky presence and just plain fun to watch. In fact I’d look forward to seeing more of him in the future.

…rife with enough scandal and debauchery to entertain and surprise nearly any adult audience.

Completing the cast are Jason Damaso and Omar LaTiri, who depict the unassuming, yet still significant characters of Farragut North. For example, Damaso as the Waiter delivers a touching monologue in Act Two that recession affected patrons are sure to appreciate.  Likewise LaTiri’s patient and sunny portrayal of Ben, a low-level campaign aide, keeps the audience rooting in his tiny corner up until the very end.

(From left) Leta Hall as Ida Horowicz, Bill Hurlburt as Paul Zara, Jonathan Feuer as Stephen Bellamy and Omar Latiri as Ben Fowles. Photo by Harvey Levine.

Also among the play’s highlights is designer Joy Wyne’s mostly simplistic set design. Though transitioning between scenes sometimes appears cumbersome and runs a bit long, the sparse décor is an apropos choice for a story in which characters traverse the campaign trail at a breakneck pace. The muted, woodsy interior of the hotel rooms suits their Midwestern Iowa locale.  The campaign posters and gear appear as realistic replicas and perfectly mimic the Obama and Romney junk-propaganda that currently litters our front yards and car bumpers.

Unfortunately, certain sound effects (ie. ambient restaurant noise or the roaring crowd) during the play’s pivotal moments are unnecessary as they mostly distract the audience rather than enhance the scenes.  However, sound designer Kevin Garrett’s use of presidential drumlines to transition between scenes is pretty clever and a light and fun compliment to this mostly serious political drama.

While a few scenes fall flat and run far longer than needed, overall, Silver Spring Stage offers a strong and commendable interpretation of Farragut North.  Director Bridget Muehlberger navigates the majority of the play’s many twists and turns with great skill and delivers an entertaining and thought-provoking show, the ending of which audiences will debate for days to come.

Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with an Intermission.

Advisory: Some adult language/material.

Farragut North plays at Silver Spring Stage through October 6, 10145 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD,(Located in the Woodmoor Shopping Center).  For more information click here.