Key West Players Launch Season with Gore Vidal’s ‘The Best Man’ (Key West Citizen)

Key West Players Launch Season with Gore Vidal’s ‘The Best Man’ (Key West Citizen)

Posted Sun, Dec 9, 2007 in Reviews

The nomination of a presidential candidate is looming. Sharp battle lines are drawn. Duking it out are a witty, womanizing liberal and an ambitious, Southern senator. Each has explosive dirt on the other and is threatening to use it “for the good of the country.” Sound familiar It’s actually the fascinating plot of Gore Vidal’s 1960 play, “The Best Man,” a juicy tale of the backstabbing world of a presidential nomination.The Waterfront Playhouse, located in Mallory Square, kicks off its 68th season with this fresh, funny and surprisingly relevant story of political intrigue. “The Best Man” illustrates how little (and how much) things have changed on the political landscape in the last few decades. Even if you’re not politically inclined, this tale of suspense will have you on the edge of your seat.It’s “a sophisticated, elegant and damnably entertaining play!” according to The New Yorker.Directed by the Waterfront’s Artistic Director Danny Weathers “The Best Man” features a cast of 16 of Key West’s finest actors, and opens with a performance at 8 p.m. Dec. 19, followed by a post-show reception. The production runs through Jan. 12.”The Best Man” follows William Russell, a former secretary of state, who is a scholarly, high-minded candidate leading in the polls. Beloved by eggheads, he is viewed by others with suspicion. The other candidate is Joe Cantwell, a hard-driving, dirty fighter who will let nothing stand in the way of his ambitions. Cantwell threatens to go public with some damaging information on Russell’s mental history unless Russell drops out of the race. However, Russell’s camp finds some explosive dirt of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” variety on Cantwell, and the tables are turned.Abetting the fight is ex-President Art Hockstader, who calls himself “the last of the great hicks.” Hockstader loves a good political battle and is determined to have a say in who will be the best man for the job. The candidates’ campaign aides, their wives, various political hacks and the ever-present media are also part of the action. The Associated Press said “Vidal’s story is a corker! Suspenseful, funny and surprisingly fresh!”Gore Vidal is an internationally recognized novelist, essayist, playwright and provocateur whose career has spanned six decades. In addition to his seven novels about American history, he has written dozens of stage and television plays, film scripts, and satirical novels, such as “Myra Breckinridge.” He ran for Congress in 1960 as a Democrat in New York’s highly Republican 29th District, but was defeated. In 1982, he ran in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in California and finished second. A Broadway revival of “The Best Man” appeared in 2000 to great acclaim and starred Charles Durning, Spalding Gray, Elizabth Ashley, Chris Noth and Christine Ebersole.Locally, the pedigree cast includes Michael Mulligan (Russell) and David Black (Cantwell) as the two battling candidates. Chris Stone and Mary Falconer play their respective wives, each with their own approach to the fight. Tom Murtha plays the shrewd, bourbon-swilling ex-president. Lawrence Cohen and Wayne Dapser play the two respective campaign aides who perform the candidates’ dirty work behind the scenes. Robin Deck plays the steely head of a women’s political committee. Kyle Caskey plays Cantwell’s ex-military buddy whose revelations could shape American history. W.C. Meyer plays a senator who only wants to be part of the winning team and Michael Aaglan plays Russell’s psychiatrist. Playing the roles of reporters, delegates and commentators are Kristen Wilson, Karl Stahl, Rebecca Knickmeier, Don Pingston and Billy Rivera.The set is a pair of Philadelphia hotel suites and will be designed by the Waterfront’s expert set designer-technical director, Michael Boyer. The lighting will be designed by Kim Hanson, who designed lighting for last year’s “Urinetown.” Both Mr. Boyer and Mr. Hanson recently received praise for their set and lighting design for Joyce Stahl’s “Nutcracker, Key West.” Carmen Rodriguez, who made a splash with last season’s “Educating Rita” costumes, will design the 1960s-appropriate look.For tickets or more information, call 305-294-5015, or visit ticket prices for locals are available for Wednesday evening performances.

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