Arts & Entertainment

In ‘The War Party,’ even FDR reaches across aisle

In this political satire, Republican Laura Smith contemplates suicide before she decides to become an
Independent instead.

Tired of all the Election Day banter? Well, it only comes around every once in a while, so suck it up and go to the Adrienne Theatre to hear more about politics in The War Party.

Laura Smith, a character in The War Party, chooses life as an independent after losing the Senate race in the quirky satire (Courtesy InterAct Theatre).

The setting for the 80-minute political satire is the campaign headquarters of Laura Smith, a Republican who lost her race for the Senate.

During this quirky tale, Smith encounters a late-night suicide attempt as she and Jessie, an intern, engage in binge drinking. Popping open cheap bottles of champagne, they discuss why she may have lost. Did the senator’s unpopular stance on abortion and gay rights cost her the election? Was it the helmet hair she defiantly refused to change?

Fed up with the political system, Smith is on the brink of self-destruction. She even has a girl-on-girl kiss to give her an edge as the only lesbian Republican in the Senate.

When director Rebecca Wright read the script, which was written by Vincent Delaney, she was immediately intrigued.

“It’s an unusual script focusing on women in politics [and] questioning the two-party system,” Wright said.

Wright took an unusual approach to the show, which originally opened in Seattle.
“We’ve focused on the fantasy,” Wright said. “A magic-box feeling when the world opens up in the second scene.”

After she loses the Senate race, Republican Smith kisses another woman to feel better (Courtesy InterAct Theatre).

During the aforementioned scene, stage lights reveal a foggy forest. Images of trees project on the back wall, and the stage floor opens up into a pond.

Smith has a champagne-induced diabetic shock that causes an out-of-body experience, which involves Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt. To bring her to a better place, Roosevelt helps her realize the similarities between them, rather than the differences.

The play is produced by InterAct Theatre Company, which is committed to “changing the world, one play at a time.”

“InterAct does political work,” Wright said. “One of the common held presumptions is that there will be a message, but I think the best political plays will raise questions without easy answers.

“This is the first time I’ve worked with these actors. Every process is determined by the script at hand and the collaborative actors. The design team was so imaginative. It’s really trippy to be working on a play on a Republican woman.”

The three-member cast in the play is supported by 12 crew members.

Lighting designer Maria Shaplin graduated from Temple last spring. She said working with InterAct was meant to be.

“We have a lot of similar ideas. I’m a big fan of new writing and political plays,” Shaplin said. “Because the play is not propaganda, we don’t expect people to be angered by it but expect people to respond to this story.”

It doesn’t hurt to have such a talented actress playing the washed-up Smith. Susan Wilder portrayed the senator’s character perfectly.

“She’s so talented and believable as a drunken politician,” Shaplin said. “People latch onto a human story, and it’s timely with women in politics.”

The stereotypical Republican has a change of heart, but only after suffering a devastating defeat. Smith realizes she can have another go at the game – on her own terms.

In today’s political arena, the constant jests from each side of the aisle are all too common. The War Party gives a fresh look at the dark side of politics. Within this woman’s plight of loss and devastation, she finds the strength to change.

For Smith, choosing life as an Independent is better than choosing death as a Republican. Even though the two-party system may not work all the time, it’s still worth fighting for – even if you have to switch sides.

Marilyn D’Angelo can be reached at mdangelo@temple.edu.

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