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Glenda Frank


by Victor L. Cahn, directed by Eric Parness
Samuel Beckett Theatre,
410 W. 42nd St., NYC from Sept. 10 - Oct. 8, 2011.
Tues., 7 PM; Wed. - Sat. 8 PM; Sat., 2 PM; Sun., 3 PM.
Tickets are $55 at www.Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200.

Politics and sex. Just the words make us salivate. Eliot Spitzer and his suicidal fling had us glued to the media. His stalwart wife inspired a TV series about a philandering politico. In its second season, "The Good Wife" is still prime time. More recently Anthony Weiner and his virtual misdeeds set the political world in a spin -- and held us spellbound as the details and the photos surfaced.

In "Dally with the Devil" at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Victor L. Cahn has written a tight drama of three power-brokers locking horns. The twist is that they’re all attractive women, women with secrets to protect. Bit by bit the dirty laundry flaps in the wind and the women reach compromises that protect them and their two candidates. It’s fun to be privy to these summer negotiations.

The play opens in a beach house, where Irene (Elizabeth Norment), a charming journalism teacher on leave, has come to visit Charlotte (Erika Rolfsrud), a former student turned political blogger. As they chit chat we learn that Charlotte once pressed a corruption issue so far she almost got expelled and that Irene did not stand by her although Charlotte had been her most promising student. Charlotte still pushes the issues, but now she earns big bucks for revelations, and all sorts of people with secrets make their way to her door. Irene, a volunteer with Bob Freemont’s senate campaign, has secrets about the right-wing opposition candidate. If they check out, Charlotte promises to publish them. Her blog is called demon.com.

Charlotte has another visitor who also arrives in city clothes and complains about the sandy (unpaved) walk to the beach house: Megan (Elizabeth A. Davis), the opposition’s publicist, a young, manipulative ex-Marine. She too brings hidden skeletons. She’s edgy and the women rub egos, but Charlotte knows that the right secrets can make a column golden.

Each confrontation adds dimension to our insight into the women and their careers. Each has her own style and, it seems, her own sexual preference, which becomes part of the mix. In the third visit all three find themselves under the gun.

It takes a certain appetite to choose this work -- and Cahn shows us the personality variations. The characters are written and performed well. Only when the two publicists join ranks to blackmail Charlotte does the action feel artificial, more like a classroom exercise than an insightful observation, but maybe that’s because this sort of manoeuvring is the muck that doesn’t get talked about much. I like how well these lobbyists did their homework and used their knowledge as power wedges. "Dally with the Devil" may offer no revelations, but it’s cleverly structured and contributes a new, timely subject to off-Broadway. Jisun Kim’s simple deck, Pamela Kupper’s beach lighting, and Michelle Eden Humphrey’s costumes were admirable.


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