|John E. Brady, Maribeth Graham, Jeffrey C. Wolf, and Richard Kent Green. Photo: Matthew Dunivan|
Chatting With the Tea Party
a documentary‐style play
By Rich Orloff
Directed by Lynnette Barkley
Robert Moss Theatre
Through Feb. 21
By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
Playwright Rich Orloff (Funny As A Crutch), a self admitted pretty liberal New Yorker, realized that while he didn't like a lot of what the Tea Party stood for, he didn't actually know anyone who was a member of it. Driven by a desire to answer the question "Who are these people?" Orloff conducted more than 63 hours of interviews with leaders of more than 20 Tea Party groups around the country.
Jeffrey C. Wolf plays Orloff. John E. Brady, Maribeth Graham and Richard Kent Green play a variety of characters from the folks Orloff interviewed to political figures (Dialect Coaching is by Page Clements). All of the dialogue uses for the Tea Party members is real, taken from the interviews.
In the course of chatting with Tea Party folks, Orloff finds himself actually liking some of them. He doesn't agree with their politics when it comes to gun control, abortion and other issues, but he comes to respect most of them as decent, patriotic people, deeply concerned about the country and willing to take action about the things they feel passionate.
Without keeping an open mind, he wouldn't get far from his early thought that "The Left and Right don’t just have a difference of opinion, we live in different realities."
What Are the Highlights?
One of the best scripts of the season, Broadway or Off. The action, directed by Lynette Barkley, keeps us engaged as the skilled actors walk in and out of personas. Orloff has the gift of slick writing, so the many elements are anchored (often with some sharp humor) and paint quick vivid images of the characters without relying on stereotype. The project itself is pretty brave for a New York playwright (showing any empathy for someone who is not a full-out, Obama-supporting, liberal Democrat usually doesn't win you any friend here -- a reaction amusingly captured in the pay by reactions from the playwright's friends.)
While Orloff's own opinions are not hidden, his reporting skills remind us of how journalism should be -- looking for information and reporting truth rather than pushing an agenda. I found the play timely, powerful and refreshing. The significance of the song "Why Can't We Be Friends" playing at intermission is not lost.
What Are the Lowlights?
None. Go see it.
The set and lights are designed by Nick Francone, with costumes designed by Orli Nativ, and projections designed by Paul Girolamo.
Performances are Thursdays at 7 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through Feb. 21. Tickets are $18: www.chattingwiththeteaparty.com.