Can an honest person be elected President of the United States?
Industrialist and idealist Grant Matthews is full of plans to go to Washington and fix what's wrong with America. But will he be willing to compromise his views to become the Republican candidate in 1948?
That is the premise of State of the Union, the 1946 Pultizer Prize-winning drama by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay, and the season's first offering from the Summer Company at Duquesne University.
Brad Sadler certainly has the looks and the voice to play Grant Matthews. His ringing tones fill the Peter Mills Auditorium, and his sincerity and passion make you believe a better America is possible. I'd vote for him! In the quieter and emotional moments, he isn't quite hitting the mark — but no Presidential candidate is perfect, right?
As Matthews' wife, Mary, Juliette Mariani plans a full emotional arc. In her first scene, she is a somewhat shrewish woman trapped in a lackluster marriage. But by the final scene, the audience will be rooting for her. As the Matthews campaign starts to ignite, so does Mary's rekindled passion for Grant.
Still, the performance to watch in State of the Union is Jay Keenan's as the jaded Washington insider James Conover. Conover has the power to make (or break) Matthews' bid for the nomination, and Keenan plays the master manipulator to perfection. He is able to make Conover's backroom negations and smoke-filled-room dirty deals seem perfectly logical. Conover uses people like pawns, but it is an iron fist in a velvet glove. Keenan's scenes with Mariani are some of the best in the show.
Victor Vrabel and Naomi Grodin bring comic relief as a blustering Southern judge and his very tipsy wife.
John E. Lane Jr. pulls triple duty: direction, scenic design and cast member. Lane's pacing keeps the three-act play moving smoothly. His utilitarian set represents three different locations, utilizing some lovely furniture pieces to make that happen. And he garners laughs in a small role as an over-dressed dinner guest.
Sex, dirty deals and intrigue — it's American politics as usual.