by Maggie Kulbokas
The Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) begins its summer season with the world premiere of Robert Reich's farcical play "Public Exposure". "Public Exposure" is a view of the raucous ride known as American politics. We know the noble side of politics--now it's time to know the rest.
If the name Robert Reich sounds familiar, it should. Reich served under three different presidents, most recently as Clinton's secretary of labor. He is also a distinguised teaching professor, playwright and author. "Public Exposure" is a campy departure from his usual books and articles. Reich says of his own play, "No sane person can write serious prose about American politics and economics without an occasional outburst like this."
And "Public Exposure" is quite an outburst. In the same vein of such political satires as "Wag the Dog" and "Primary Colors" it is an irreverant look at the secrets, partial truths and conspiracies that abound in politics. The play centers around a "Limbaugh-esque" TV anchor (played by Robert Kroft) who is convinced to run for president by a savvy reporter (played by Stacy Fischer) turned campaign manager and a money-hungry plastic surgeon (played by Michael Dorval)--this before they learn his dirty little secret. "Public Exposure" begs the question, what do we REALLY know about the people we elect to represent us? We know what we read, what we are told and what we see, but who really are these people? What do you see when you peek beneath the facade?
The lights open on a simple stage--cleverly used for this one act play. Columns rise to a tympanum reminscent of the US Supreme Court. But upon further examination, one realizes the steadfast Greek figures have been replaced by men in suits throttling one another. The set hints that politics may not be as noble and pure as politicians and their handlers would have you believe.
At the onset, the play was a tad sluggish, but once the actors warmed up and the jokes began to roll, there was no looking back. The plot was over the top as Reich himself indicates. But as with most fiction, you must allow yourself to loosen your hold on reality and enjoy the ride. The scandal, secrets and outcomes of political candor were presented in a silly farfetched way. And that's alright--we can't believe everything we see, fact or fiction.
Laura Latreille. Photo courtesy of WHAT.
The actors did a fine job with their roles, but Laura Latreille was delightful as the ditsy plastic surgeon's wife. The set designed by Dan Joy and direction by Gip Hoppe lived up to the quality one expects when seeing a WHAT performance. All in all Reich's play was very tongue in cheek and should be taken that way. As the audience filtered out, a former state representative from the Mid-West intoned, "that's not the politics I remember." Me thinks the truth lies somewhere in between.
"Public Exposure" was written by Robert Reich and directed by Gip Hoppe. Performances run from May 25 through June 18, 2005. Tickets: General Admission $25.00; Wellfleet Voters $21.00 (with valid voter registration card); Matinee Performances $19.00; Student Rush $12.00 (stand-by tickets with valid ID). Tickets available at the box office, online or by calling. WHAT is located by the town pier in Wellfleet.