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Chatting with the Tea Party

Examination of the foundation and momentum behind the rise of the Tea Party, in the style of a documentary using interviews and first-hand encounters with members.

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Maribeth Graham and Jeffrey C. Wolf in a scene from “Chatting with the Tea Party” (Photo credit: Matthew Dunivan)

Maribeth Graham and Jeffrey C. Wolf in a scene from “Chatting with the Tea Party” (Photo credit: Matthew Dunivan)

Ryan Mikita

In the lead up to Obama’s second term in office, a small political party began to make waves across America which didn’t fall under the traditional belief systems held by either Democrats or Republicans. Rich Orloff’s Chatting with the Tea Party is the story of the rise of the Tea party, the faction of the Republican Party which emerged in 2009 following many conservatives’ unrest and dissatisfaction with the direction and choices of the Federal Government. The play investigates the Tea Party by way of a series of transcribed interviews, reenacted by the cast of the show. All the interviews are from the campaign trail up to the 2012 election, taking place between Thanksgiving Day 2010 and Election Day 2012.

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.

John E. Brady and Jeffrey C. Wolf in a scene from “Chatting with the Tea Party” (Photo credit: Matthew Dunivan)

John E. Brady and Jeffrey C. Wolf in a scene from “Chatting with the Tea Party” (Photo credit: Matthew Dunivan)

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

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