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Review: 'Bedfellows' speaks to a polarized political landscape

April 25, 2012|By Philip Brandes
  • Marc Jablon and Thomas Vincent Kelly in "Bedfellows."
Marc Jablon and Thomas Vincent Kelly in "Bedfellows." (Daniel G. Lam )

A charismatic L.A. mayor appears to be riding an unstoppable populist wave to the governor's mansion -- but his victory celebration may be premature. Amid the campaign’s down-to-the-wire twists and turns, nothing can be taken for granted except human fallibility in Chuck Rose's new drama, "Bedfellows" (as in "politics makes strange…").

The fine line between personal ambition and the public good -- and the resulting ethical dilemmas -- are hardly uncharted thematic territories, but they speak with particular relevance to a polarized electoral climate in Jack Stehlin's impassioned staging for his New American Theatre company.

Anchoring the production as crusading liberal mayor Sanford "Sandy" Mitchell, Thomas Vincent Kelly radiates the kind of sincerity, intelligence and charm that recalls the Kennedy mystique. His story is inspirational: After abandoning his career as a Wall Street investment broker following an epiphany of conscience, the self-made Mitchell returned to his humble L.A. roots and rose to prominence as a champion of affordable housing and other humanitarian causes, earning the unswerving loyalty of legions, including his longtime chief of staff (Robert Cicchini), campaign manager (Marc Jablon), discarded former lover (Marie-Françoise Theodore), and even a supposedly unbiased journalist blogger (Cameron Meyer). Mitchell’s personal integrity seems just as pure, despite the tempting advances of an infatuated volunteer (Jade Sealey).

Of course things that seem too good to be true generally are. When an opposition mudslinger (Jordan Lund) threatens to expose a potentially devastating incident from Mitchell’s past, the candidate faces a character-defining test in the lengths to which he’ll go to protect his image.

Rose’s script intelligently defines these moral conflicts, and a committed cast make them visceral. The campaign machinations are not rendered with much insider detail or specificity — seasoned operatives would navigate these challenges very differently. As a result, the piece is more political fable than realistic exposé, but its reflections on compromised ideals still ring true.

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Bedfellows,” McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Ends June 2. $34.50. (310) 701-0788 or www.newamericantheatre.com. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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