Maryland governor Ben Wiley’s approval rating is down to 32% following an
incident in which he “copped a quick feel” in his private office in the State house. 
It was a setup, he tells gubernatorial advisor/“miracle worker” Billy Dodge. She was
wearing no bra and “they were hanging there like ripe fruit.”  What was a
governor to do?

Billy’s solution to Wiley’s dilemma is a handsome Marine/astronaut hero named
Colonel Ted Bond, a veteran of Iraq 1 and Iraq 2, and just returned from two years
captaining a space station.  Like fellow Marine vet John Glenn, who better to run
for the Senate and whose coattails better for Wiley to ride to reelection on than
Bond’s?  Putting Ted on the ticket for U.S. Senator and grooming him for the White
House is a win-win situation for all involved.

This is but the opening salvo in political vet Donald Webster’s absorbing new play
Spin, getting its world premiere at Theatre 40.  Webster, who spent 30 years in
Washington including an appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary for
International Affairs, clearly knows his stuff, and watching Spin is like being a fly on
the wall of the offices of the rich and powerful in our government.

A private citizen can (one would hope) keep his past indiscretions private.  Not so
a public figure. Bond swears that the only dirt that can be dug up on him would a
couple of traffic tickets. As for the time when he decked a guy in a bar, all charges
were dropped, so no worries there. But can anyone’s past be that lily white?  
Hardly, as Bond and his proponents discover when secrets even his wife knew
nothing of come to light, secrets involving alcohol, marijuana, and a DUI. (Sound

Sally and Ted would seem to have the perfect marriage, but Sally gave up a
fulfilling job in Texas to be by her husband’s side, and that’s not something easy for
her to forget. “I’ve outgrown the role of stay-at-home wife,” she tells Ted, “and you
resent it.” There’s also the matter of Ted and Sally’s childlessness.  Spin Doctor Billy
suggests they adopt a child, and use Sally’s miscarriages to gain sympathy.  
Naturally Bond and his wife object, but how long can they maintain their integrity
when the name of the game is winning elections?  Bond wants to emulate John
Kennedy’s “ask what you can do for your country” idealism, with no negative
campaigning. Hardly acceptable tactics to Billy, who has no qualms about going
for the jugular. What about just being honest?  Not Billy’s first choice, but in a
pinch he can spin the truth 100 ways.  

Spin, the play, moves along lickety-split with real edge of your seat suspense,
providing many chuckles along the way. Webster’s writing is crisp and incisive,
and his dialog sounds real.  Director Marcia Rodd keeps the pace swift and has
elicited fine performances from all five of her perfectly cast actors.

As Billy Dodge, Gary Ballard, who’s never less than excellent in his usual quirky
supporting roles (Twentieth Century), gets the kind of meaty lead that he can
really sink his teeth into.  With his small stature and countrified clothes and manner,
he seems outwardly innocuous, but this is not a man you want running your
opponent’s campaign. Ted Heyck looks and acts the part of a blustering politico
with mucho savvy but plenty of poor judgment when it comes to attractive
young women. Jens Kohler, with his cropped Marine haircut (he cut it after the
production stills were taken) and authentic military bearing is totally believable as
Ted Bond, the “genuine article” candidate who is (as his slogan goes) “as good as
his word.” Alison Blanchard is spot-on in a brief scene as an slick morning TV host (a
scene made funnier by the obviously canned applause, laughter, and audience
“ah’s”). Finally, there is the sensational Lauren Lovett, in a couldn’t be better
performance as Sally Bond. Lovett, the kind of actress who is, as they say, “always
in the moment,” is thrillingly spontaneous, a star in the making.

Theatre 40’s sets must always perform double duty for their two concurrently
running productions. Here, Jeff G. Rack’s Dangerous Corner 1930s living room set
design has been split in half, one half serving as Governor Wiley’s office and the
other as the veranda of the Bond home. Though the set doesn’t work quite as
well here as it does for Dangerous Corner, it’s fascinating to see how effective a
change of furniture and props can be.  Lighting by Meghan Hong and costumes
by Lani Bartlett are just fine.  Sound designer Bill Froggatt’s canned audience
reactions for the morning TV show sound just like what they are—prerecorded
audience reactions.  The funniest thing in the show, but I’m not sure that was the

With the suspense classic Dangerous Corner being performed on alternate nights
with the very contemporary Spin, Theatre 40 audiences once again have two very
different, and equally excellent productions to thrill and delight them. And as
always, Theatre 40 may be the only 99-seat theater whose shows are performed
seven days a week, a treat for theater junkies who hate to stay at home Mondays
through Wednesdays.  Whether you opt for Spin or Dangerous Corner, or preferably
both, you’ve got a swell night (or matinee) at the theater ahead of you.

Reuben Cordova Theatre on the Campus of Beverly Hills High School
241 S Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills.

–Steven Stanley
October 17, 2007
Photos: Ed Krieger

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