A More Perfect Union

Can two law clerks on opposite sides of the aisle find common ground?

  • LAWFULLY YOURS Friedman and Simmons balance legal and romantic matters;...

LAWFULLY YOURS Friedman and Simmons balance legal and romantic matters;...

If only real-world political machinations could be resolved with a little reasoning, a lot of flirting and some lovemaking. But that method of mediation isn’t likely to succeed for anyone besides the paper-thin characters of Vern Thiessen’s well-intentioned and occasionally perceptive ode to bipartisanship, A More Perfect Union. A pair of Supreme Court law clerks, Maddie (Friedman) and James (Simmons) stand at opposing ends of the political spectrum, but similarities to Mary Matalin and James Carville end there.

She works for a conservative male justice dubbed “the Wise One,” while his boss is a liberal female christened “the Enlightened One.” Although they disagree about the death penalty and the right of religious institutions to discriminate, they bond as outsiders—a Jewish woman and an African-American man—and eventually come together as lovers, largely because James relentlessly hits on Maddie in the Supreme Court library. (Luckily, none of their cases involves a sexual harassment complaint.)

Anyone with a working knowledge of romance-novel clichs can guess how things proceed, and soon they’re harboring secrets that may cost them their hard-won positions. Friedman and Simmons generate a winning rapport—Simmons is especially charismatic as he fluctuates between his character’s playful and serious sides—but despite their efforts and those of director Ron Russell, Thiessen’s vital themes of unity and truth-telling hit louder than a pounded gavel. Epic Theatre Ensemble’s mission is to tackle issue-oriented plays, but this one becomes too much of a trial.—Diane Snyder

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East 13th Street Theater. By Vern Thiessen. Dir. Ron Russell. With Melissa Friedman, Godfrey L. Simmons Jr. 1hr 15mins. No intermission.