Next In Line
- by John Warren
review in SF SF Examiner (Chad Jones)
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- "Next In Line" goes behind scenes with portrayal of
by Chad Jones
Local playwright John Warren deserves a vote of confidence. His new play
"Next In Line" makes local politics more interesting then, well,
- Set in an undisclosed metropolitan area, Warren chooses to write not
about candidates but about the consultants behind the candidates. An instead
of writing about some slick, big-time consultant, along the lines of a
Dick Morris, Mary Matalin or James Carville, Warren introduces us to a
small-time guy on the cusp of becoming a real power broker.
- Our first impression of Bobby () is one of hardworking integrity.
This is a guy who seems to believe in the people he works for, someone
who values loyalty and is actually in the business of politics for the
- Bobby's associate is equally hardworking Erin (superb Nora El Samaly),
who may or may not be playing political games with Bobby's clients and
- Struck with the office grunt work is college intern T.J. (Joe Engender),
a volunteer who worries about the feng shui of the office as much as he
does about political correctness.
- Writing with intelligence and humor, Warren is less concerned about
showing us the dirty underbelly of politics -- then is in watching success
and power affect Bobby and the people around him.
- Robert Corrick effectively plays three clients, a shy Water Board candidate,
a racist garbage magnate and an old fashioned gentleman aiming for the
state assembly. Cheryl Smith plays two key figures: the head of an important
disability lobby and an ambitious city councilwoman.
- The ensemble is effective in creating the believable rhythms of a small
but busy office where phones are constantly ringing and the lack of a coffee
maker is sorely felt.
- Whizzing by in less than two hours, the play is efficiently staged
by Jason Ries on a fantastically realistic office set by Alison Tassie.
- EXIT's intimacy
- The intimacy of the EXIT on Taylor theater space puts us in right in
the heart of that office, and it's a shame the play has an intermission
because we're jarred out of the world Warren and his actors have so efficiently
- This is an enjoyable, involving evening, but "Next In Line"
still feels like a work in progress.
- The play stops a few scenes short of a satisfying ending. As it stands,
the play simply stops. Warren indicates certain things about Bobby's once-trustworthy
integrity and about idealistic T.J.'s inevitable corruption. But we lose
track of Erin, the plays most interesting character.
- Part of what makes the "Next" work is that Warren never stops
and spells out all the stakes involved. The audience is required to do
some work piecing together the loyalties, deceits and plot twists -- and
that's a good thing.
- That said, it wouldn't hurt to turn up the tension once the play gets
rolling. At first, the main conflict is between Bobby and Maxwell (Tom
Baxley), the man who taught Bobby everything he knows about being a political
consultant. The two friends find themselves pushing competing candidates
for the same assembly seat.
- Stop Thief
- Periodically throughout the two-act play, we see a masked burglar enter
the office, snoop around with a flashlight and either steal documents or
leave messages for Bobby. At first, the break-ins are intriguing, but
by the fourth one, the gimmick has become comic and any mystery or tension
has vanished. When we do find out the identity of the burglar, the revelation
- The major plot doesn't kick in until late in the first act, and the
repercussions of that plot line are not fully revealed, merely hinted at,
as is the possibility of a surprise romance. Such intrigue makes the abrupt
ending seem all the more disappointing.
- Even with the unnecessary intermission and the foreshortened second
act, "Next In Line" buzzes with energy and activity -- no small
accomplishment for a new play that remains refreshingly bright-eyed when
dealing with corruption and dirty dealing.
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