Confederates Reveals Human Foibles at the Grove Theatre

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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After many delays, I finally got to see one play from this potent double-header, now playing at the Grove Theatre in Burbank. Confederates packs a wallop, not so much for the situation, as for the self-serving propensities that come through in a play about humans jockeying for position.

The situation is simple enough. Once a Big Man at camp, Will (Darryl C. Brown) runs into Maddie (Miranda Lichtman), a younger camper who idolized him. Now he is an aspiring journalist on the rise, while Maddie turns out to be the daughter of a US senator who has just announced for president. What are the odds they’d find each other again?

The audience and Will alike are quick to register the possibilities for advancement in Maddie’s news. It seems to be a natural thing for him in confide in Stephanie (Melissa R. Randel), his mentor.  But, for reasons of her own, she usurps his claim, urging him to cultivate the gullible Maddy as a “source.” When Will begins to exploit his slight friendship, he discovers that, as a budding artist, Maddy wrapped herself in a confederate flag as a “statement,” only to have Stephanie take the situation and the flag itself out of context, resulting in horrific consequences for the candidate.

Playwright Suzanne Bradbeer pits characters who encounter each other in the soup of media’s sensation-seeking, 24-hour news cycle, and pressures them to answer consequential questions requiring almost instantaneous decisions. In Confederates, she achieves characterizations so well-delineated that we completely understand the psychology of each person, even while decrying the paths they choose for themselves.

The well-nuanced actors, helmed by a sensitive director in Christopher Hart, always bring their humanity to the fore. Melissa R. Randel is particularly effective as the icily ambitious journalist whose smile never fades, even while destroying a young girl’s reputation.

The cosy Grove Theatre hosts Confederates and Exit Wounds, winners of the Moss Hart and Kitty Carlisle Hart New Play Initiative, made possible only through the use of a simple, yet versatile, set designed by Leonard Ogden, who also provides costuming. As with most recent playwrights, though, Bradbeer’s disregard for the exigencies of a small stage make the constant set changes rather clunky. Lighting by David Darwin and sound by Hunter Stephenson are top-notch.

Hurry on over to Burbank for the last weekend of both plays before at least one heads off to New York.

Confederates performs in repertory with Exit Wounds through this weekend; Exit Wounds continues Thursday through Friday at 8:00 PM and Saturday at 2:00 pm, with Confederates running Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 and 7:00 PM; through December 16th, 2018 at Grove Theatre Center, 1111-b West Olive, Burbank. Tickets: one for $38.00 and two for $60.00. For reservations and ticketing, phone (800) 838-3006 or online at www.hartnpi.org/tickets.