Farragut North, Beau Willimon’s riveting look at the behind-the-scenes maneuverings and back-stabbings of a Presidential primary campaign, a Geffen Playhouse hit just months after the first Obama win, now gets a solid Odyssey Theatre guest production with a far different man in the White House.

Jack Tynan stars as 25-year-old whiz-kid Stephen Bellamy, currently serving as press secretary for would-be Democratic Presidential candidate Governor Morris in his campaign to win the Iowa caucus over rival Democrat Pullman, and so far so good, the latest polls predicting Morris to win the state by a full nine percentage points, terrific news for Steve, Morris campaign manager Paul Zara (Geoffrey Lower), and eager-beaver deputy press secretary Ben (Adam Faison).

Still, favorable numbers or not, no campaign is a sure thing, and so Paul comes up with a plan to insure decisive victory in the Hawkeye State.

Steve will leak a juicy tidbit about a major but as-yet unannounced Morris endorsement to New York Times reporter Ida (Jennifer Cannon) on condition she “keep it private,” and to do so with such subtlety that she’ll never realize she’s being used.

Then comes a late-night phone call from Pullman campaign top gun Tom Duffy (Andy Umberger) that throws everything Steve has been led to believe about Morris’s sure-thing status into doubt, followed by a late-night hookup with sexy nineteen-year-old Morris campaign intern Molly (Margaret Fegan) that could spell even more trouble on the horizon.

Can you say dirty sexy politics?

It’s clear from the get-go that Willimon (who worked for Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign before gaining Netflix fame and fortune creating/writing House Of Cards) knows the people he’s writing about, and it shows in both the dimensions he gives each character and the snappy dialog he writes.

Even smaller roles like Ben (as sweet as Eve Harrington ever was) or nubile nymphet Molly (with about as much experience in the sack as Steve has in politics) or a chatty waiter (with a vegetable as a brother thanks to the U.S. military) are as finely drawn as major characters like Steve and Paul.

Admittedly, given the recent campaign free-for-all that led to the election of a nightmare president, Farragut North proves less shocking in 2017 than it did in at the Geffen in 2009 (if not downright dated).

But no matter. As a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of what happens behind closed campaign headquarters, Mexican restaurant-bars, and hotel room doors,Willmon’s play retains its power to fascinate, and with director Cathy Fitzpatrick Linder and stars Tynan and Fegan transferring their 2016 Ridgefield Theater Barn production from Connecticut to SoCal, Farragut North is a welcome addition to our spring 2017 intimate theater scene.

As Steve, Tynan proves a dynamic stage presence with leading man chops opposite Los Angeles stage-and-screen vet Lower’s more experienced (though no less calculating) Paul, and just wait till the second act when sparks between the colleagues-turned-adversaries fly.

Cannon’s martini-smooth-and-dry Ida, Fegan’s sharp-witted, sexy Molly, Faison’s still-waters-run-deep Ben, and Umberger’s dangerous-game-playing Tom make for a sizzling quartet of political players, none of whom ends up being who he or she first appears to be, with Francisco J. Rodriguez completing the excellent cast in two distinctly played cameos.

Scenic designer Pete Hickok gives Farragut North a sleek, stylish look, and sound designer Christopher Moscatiello links scenes with edgy, suspense-building musical underscoring.  That being said, Willimon’s play loses momentum without the lickety-split scene changes only major regional theaters are equipped to afford.

Kelley Finn’s lighting is mostly first-rate save for some distracting flickering throughout the play’s extended first scene. Mylette Nora once again scores top marks for her character-appropriate costumes.

Farragut North is produced by Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners. Susan Harmon is assistant director. Karen Celona is production stage manager. Casting is by Michael Donovan, CSA. Richie Ferris is casting associate.

Though not as cutting-edge as it was when it debuted, Farragut North retains its power to compel even in these changed political times. Forget its misguided film version, retitled The Ides Of March. Farragut North on stage at the Odyssey is the real deal.

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Odyssey Theatre, 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
May 7, 2017
Photos: Ed Krieger


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