First Floor Theater’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” Review – Political Whodunit Thriller

 

It was 1964.  Sarah Palin was born that year.  Richard Hofstadter wrote a famed Harper’s Magazine essay that seems especially prescient called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”. Granted, Hofstadter wasn’t in the business of predicting the birth of the Tea Party but rather more had the Know-Nothings and similar in mind.  For playwright and First Floor Theater Company Member Emmett Rensin, however, Hofstadter’s work seems to have been a good launch point for his namesake play.

 

 

It’s a thriller, no doubt about it.  Even if you think that the plot was perhaps more convoluted than it needed to be you’ll have to think back on how riveted you were during the two hours as the scene moves back and forth in time in a right wing candidate’s campaign office. 

 

 

Someone has been leaking bad news to the press fueling internecine warfare among the campaign staffers.   That staff includes: a Southern drawling character that perhaps for some of us conjures images of snakehead Carville (Andrew Cutler); a Black Republican (Eric Gerard); a Gay Republican (Luke Michael Grimes); a former Chicago-Sun Times reporter who has happily switched to politics (Kate Cornelius-Schecter); the candidate’s daughter (Amanda Fink); and a hot shot Ivy Leaguer with less than sparkling conservative credentials (Mitch Salm). 

 

 

There’s a lot of going for the jugular type dialogue here in a story of trust (lacking) and betrayal (abundant).   Get ready for shouting.  Don’t look for detailed character development.  Your job is to guess who the bad guy is.

 

 

The standout performers whom we should all keep our eyes out for in future performances are:  Mitch Salm, who is riveting; and Luke Michael Grimes, who hits exactly the right notes to come off as a Gay guy stuck in a closet, among other problems. 

 

Now through May 9 at the Flat Iron Arts Building Collaboraction Theater space on the third floor, 1565 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622

 

Note: It was almost a sold-out house when we attended, so it’s best to get your tickets ahead of time. 

 

For tickets visit the First Floor Theater website.

 

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Photos:  

Ariela Subar

 

 

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