The City of Conversation: In brief
The always-excellent Jan Maxwell stars as a Washington hostess and political power broker in Anthony Giardina's new play, which ranges from the Carter years through the Obama administration. Doug Hughes directs.
The City of Conversation: Theater review by Helen Shaw
I assume that Lincoln Center chose Anthony Giardina’s inert Washington drama The City of Conversation hoping that Other Desert Cities lightning would strike again. The formula’s familiar: pro-lefty pandering multiplied by tortured family dynamics plus showy female roles. The word city is even in the title. The variables this time illustrate our increasing partisan divide: Jan Maxwell plays liberal Georgetown hostess Hester, whose son, Colin (Michael Simpson), brings home fresh-faced Reaganite Anna (wooden Kristen Bush). Morning in America will mean twilight for Hester’s family, unless a third, Obama-era act can offer hope.
But the equation just doesn’t function. Line by line, Conversation is a dud. “I’m sorry for your loss,” says Anna to Hester’s sister Jean (bright spot Beth Dixon). “Your husband? You lost him in World War II.” (This chat is happening in 1979, and at any rate, no one talks that way.) Worse, Giardina twists reality to serve his metaphor—he makes Hester human, but Anna is Henry Kissinger, Eve Harrington and a harpy all in one. Is it bipartisan civility that Giardina’s nostalgic for? I think he’s doing it wrong. This dreary potboiler didn’t make me want to reach across the aisle, just dash wildly up it.—Theater review by Helen Shaw
THE BOTTOM LINE This soapy drama sinks right to the bottom.