News Ticker

Promising

Fascinating political thriller could have been ripped out of tomorrow’s headlines.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Jolie Curtsinger, Jake Robards, Kim Wong and Zachary Clark in a scene from “Promising” (Photo credit: Michael Cinquino)

Jolie Curtsinger, Jake Robards, Kim Wong and Zachary Clark in a scene from “Promising” (Photo credit: Michael Cinquino)

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Michelle Elliott’s Promising is a fascinating political thriller about the fallout that occurs when a politician is accused of sexual assault two weeks before his reelection for the New York City Council. What might have been a very talky evening in the theater has been given a sharp, focused production by director Terry Berliner who keeps the play moving with the sleekness of a high speed train. The well-cast quartet of actors made up of Jake Robards, Jolie Curtsinger, Zachary Clark and Kim Wong is always interesting as they debate the political, social and ethical sides to the problem as it keeps evolving.

Golden boy David Carver, Democrat from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is a shoo-in for reelection to his seat in the New York City Council which is only one step of the way along in the fabulous political career that is predicted for him: speaker of the council, mayor, senator, vice president and finally president. Son of a famous politician father who died in a plane crash while he was Ambassador to Hong Kong, David seems to have it all: looks, money, charisma, popularity, and privilege.

And then a 20-year-old college student that he met in a bar a few nights before accuses him of rape. With him in his new, high-tech apartment on the 40th floor of a West Side luxury building with a view of the Hudson River are Verity Jones, his campaign manager, and Shed Walker, his speech writer and policy adviser, both of whom are longtime friends from David’s college days. When one of David’s staffers discovers that the student has had an abortion, it becomes an ethical issue whether to reveal it or keep mum.

Kim Wong and Zachary Clark in a scene from “Promising” (Photo credit: Michael Cinquino)

Kim Wong and Zachary Clark in a scene from “Promising” (Photo credit: Michael Cinquino)

While they are debating the morality of making use of this piece of information, there is a knock at the door and David’s half-sister Gemma arrives, apparently having left Stanford University without telling her guardian brother. However, Gemma, who is majoring in the Earth Systems Program and how the planet is being destroyed by mankind, is also 20 years old and identifies with the accuser/victim. When Gemma and 40-year-old Shed are attracted to each other we have a parallel to David and his accuser. However, to complicate matters further, Verity has been in love with David for years while he has pursued her former roommate Nora, and best friend Shed would do anything for David. All are virtual prisoners in the apartment from the waiting press downstairs as well as the innocent victims of information being rightly or wrongly put out on the internet.

Aside from the obvious theme of morality in politics, the play also deals devastatingly with issues of privacy in public life and in the information age. Can David keep the news of the abortion secret? How will the press deal with his Asian sister showing up? Which side are the pundits on the web on? Can the Carver campaign ride out the storm? The contemporary issue of date rape is also explored thoroughly. Promising ends with a sensational denouement which will leave the audience with much to think about.

Jolie Curtsinger and Jake Robards in a scene from “Promising” (Photo credit: Michael Cinquino)

Jolie Curtsinger and Jake Robards in a scene from “Promising” (Photo credit: Michael Cinquino)

The play is both plot and cast driven. Curtsinger is a powerhouse as the efficient, pragmatic Verity for whom nothing is too good for her candidate. While at times Wong’s Goth Gemma as the voice of doom gets a bit tiresome, she is very convincing as a pessimistic college student who knows only the downside to everything. As Shed, a published poet, Clark gives a sensitive performance in a difficult role. Robards is suavely bland in the manner of a politician who never commits himself for most of the play, but when he finally reveals his soul near the play’s climax we discover what is behind the mask. Director Berliner has obtained three-dimensional performances which hone in on all of the characters’ salient traits.

James J. Fenton’s minimalist apartment setting in black, charcoal, grey and white is the latest is contemporary chic. The costumes by Theresa Snider-Stein are mostly color-coordinated with the setting. Paul Miller and Kirk Fitzgerald’s lighting remains unobtrusive throughout. Scott Stauffer is responsible for the realistic sound design from the buzzers to the drone heard outside the windows.

While Michelle Elliott’s Promising may be a bit too long for its story line , director Terry Berliner keeps upping the tension as the events spin out of control. Promising remains a fascinating investigation into ethics in politics and the social media as well as what has become known as gender politics.

Promising (through December 5, 2015)

InProximity Theatre Company

The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row

410 W. 42nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-947-8844 or visit http://www.inproximity.org

Running time: one hour and 50 minutes with no intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (667 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.