CHURCH & STATE - Reviewed by Stephen Radosh


CHURCH & STATE
Reviewed by Stephen Radosh
 
Jason Odell Williams’ Church & State is a little over 2 years old and yet its arrival at Dezarts Performs could not be more timely nor more welcomed.  Director Michael Shaw has assembled an excellent cast which, under his guidance, brings out every laugh and every moment of pathos without ever losing its true sense of reality and slipping into melodrama which could easily happen in the hands of a less skilled director.
Coming from a family steeped in politics, Charles Whitmore (Beau Marie) is keeping up tradition by running for re-election as State Senator of North Carolina.  In just a few minutes he is scheduled to appear in front of a large gathering of his followers in one last attempt to rally the votes to put him once again in the Senate.  But things are different this time around. 
Charles Whitmore has always been a deeply religious man and made that a part of his candidacy.  But after a school shootout touches close to home (his 2 sons were at the school), his faith in God and in religion itself begins to crumble.
As the play begins, Whitmore is in the green room of the Stewart theatre on the campus of N.C. State University prepping to rally the troops to help turn his lagging campaign back into a winning one.  Joining him backstage is his very religious and very domineering wife, Sara Kelley Moody).  Also on hand is Alex Klein (Tammy Hubler), his rather surprising campaign manager.  Surprising because on the surface she appears to represent Whitmore’s polar opposite; she is Jewish, from New York City and a democrat!  It is also clear that there is not much love between Alex and Mrs. Whitmore.  But when the Senator announces that he is going to go off script and talk about his self-doubt regarding his relationship and belief in God, the two women quickly form a bond towards their common goal of getting him re-elected and then aiming towards a Presidential run. 
The cast is top notch.  Mr. Marie, a Virginia transplant, looks and sounds every inch the role.  He has a commanding stage presence and a face that can signal emotional changes way before and way better than the words he is speaking.  As the wife who doesn’t wear the pants in the family but chooses which pair he is going to wear, Kelley Moody makes the perfect Steel Magnolia.  Loving yet forceful, even when drunk, it would be hard resisting putting your fate in her hands.  If you only lnow Ms. Moody from the local CBS morning show, you are in for a surprise and a real treat.  Tammy Hubler’s Alex captures the joys of being a campaign manager as well as all the stress and anxiety the job also delivers.  Her physical attitude and deadpan delivery are a perfect match for the part as she is given some of the show’s funniest lines.
The play certainly has a lot to say.  It’s not just about politics and politicians, though there is certainly no lack of gentle and some not-so-gentle skewering to be had.  It shows the commonality that we all have as human beings and as Americans, just as the two women in the play learn that despite their differences they share many of the same goals and dreams.
I highly recommend CHURCH & STATE to anyone who enjoys an intelligent and thought provoking evening (or matinee) of theatre.  The play runs through November 18 at the Pearl McManus Theatre in the Palm Springs Woman’s Club.