Presented in the style of a documentary, the author wrote himself into the play in the form of a character—a New York-based playwright named Rich—who began investigating the Tea Party after he realized that neither he, nor anyone else, really had much of a clue as to what the Tea Party actually represented or what made them different than the rest of the Grand Old Party.
Cast as the curious playwright Rich, actor Jeffrey C. Wolf is the central focus of the evening. Wolf narrates the play by way of a series of monologues, which preface interviews with various members of the Tea Party or other pertinent political figures. Carrying the show on his back, Wolf is an agreeable narrator with an infectious curiosity. At times the play navigates deeply into American History, and when he dives into a fact or number heavy-preamble, his pace is cognizant of the fact that the audience is best assumed unfamiliar with it. Thanks to this, exposition regarding past political events is well-received and easily digestible.
While Rich is the central and only recurring character in the play, three other actors—John E. Brady, Maribeth Graham, and Richard Kent Green—all play at least a handful of different roles each. Be it right-wingers, democrats, historical figures, or blind-followers of the Tea Party, the challenge here is that none of these roles ever progress past surface level, and thus very little character development or empathy is within reach. That being said, director Lynnette Barkley is particular about distinction, and as a result none of the additional characters feel extraneous or unremarkable.
Performed at the Robert Moss Theater, Chatting with the Tea Party is presented in a small black box theater, with set design by Neil Francone. Given the interview format employed throughout the play, the intimate setting works well and helps in keeping the audience engaged. At times a projection by Paul Girolamo is shown upstage of the actors, which broadcasts information about the person that the narrator is about to interview as well as a few tidbits of information about the location.
Chatting with the Tea Party is an informative political piece which manages to show the different nuances of the tea party, and the varying stances taken between party members on a wide array of political topics. Though at times liberally biased (the narrator is a self-proclaimed Democrat), the interviews included provide enough information on the Tea Party to allow the average audience member to form his or her own opinion impartially.
Chatting with the Tea Party (through February 21, 2016)
Real Theater Productions
The Robert Moss Theater, 440 Lafayette Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.chattingwiththeteaparty.com
Running time: one hour and 45 minutes including one intermission