The City of Conversation Review - Family and Politics

Novelist, essayist, and playwright Anthony Giardina penned this insider tale of Washington D.C. political and social savvy. Spanning six Presidential administrations, the play opens in 1979 - a time when adversaries fought on the Senate floor and then made up over drinks and hors d’oeuvres at Georgetown parties for the political elite.

Steven Culp, Georgia King, Jason Ritter, and David Selby - Photo by Kevin Parry

 

Hester Ferris (Christine Lahti), the hostess with the mostest in Georgetown society, has seen many stars rise and fall and has thrown dozens of dinner parties which altered the course of political history. She is a card-carrying liberal who is willing to fight for what she believes - in the cozy privacy of her elegant home. She has pinned her future hopes on her son Colin (Jason Ritter), who just returned from studying at the London School of Economics - but not alone. Colin brings his ambitious girlfriend Anna Fitzgerald (Georgia King) to visit the old homestead. As it turns out, Anna is a devoted conservative who has converted Colin to her way of thinking. When they marry and enter the political arena opposed to Hester’s views, fur will surely fly. And polite conversation will explode.

 

Steven Culp and Christine Lahti - Photo by Kevin Parry

Time passes, and things seem calm again. The Georgetown dinner parties, where people talked out their controversies and often reached some resolution, have become a thing of the past. Hester’s son and daughter-in-law have entered the daily political fray, and Hester has become the reliable babysitter for their young son Ethan.

 

Christine Lahti and Jason Ritter - Photo by Kevin Parry

But will domestic peace remain when Bork is proposed for a vacant U.S. Supreme Court position? Liberal Hester is violently opposed to his nomination, while conservatives Colin and Anna are in favor of his becoming a member of the Supreme Court. Suddenly their son becomes a political chess piece: unless Hester backs off, she may never see her grandson again. Sophie’s choice is resurrected. And politics have become very personal.

 

Joonny Ramey and Jason Ritter - Photo by Kevin Parry

Jeff Cowie’s scenic design beautifully depicts the McMansion where political futures were made or destroyed in times past. Lap Chi Chu’s lighting and John Gromada’s sound enhance the mood of the piece. Hana Sooyeon Kim’s projection design is spectacular. A huge proscenium is created around the stage on which are projected familiar faces and events easing the audience forward in time. Costumes (David C. Woolard) and wig, hair, and makeup (Carol F. Doran) keep the eras effortlessly rolling along. As does the superb acting of this powerful and talented cast.

 

Georgia King, Jason Ritter, and Christine Lahti - Photo by Kevin Parry

THE CITY OF CONVERSATION takes the esoterica of politics and political maneuvering and moves it to a very personal level as a family is torn apart by opposing beliefs. Love of family is put to the test when ideas pull family members apart. Sacrifice or surrender? Compromise or capitulate? These are questions which are explored in this intriguing story.

 

THE CITY OF CONVERSATION runs through June 4, 2016 with performances at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Bram Goldsmith Theater is located at the Wallis Annenberg Centre for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Tickets range from $29 to $110. For information and reservations, call 310-746-4000 or go online at www.TheWallis.org.

 

 

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