Saturday, May 05, 2007


Play House’s LINCOLNESQUE delights audience, especially those with blue state attitudes

With lines such as “Never was there a time when we needed Lincoln more than now,” John Strand’s play ‘LINCOLNESQUE,’ is both current and topical.

The show observes the machinations of the nations’ capital and its political inhabitants through the eyes of two brothers: Leo, a speech writer for a struggling, inept and boring congressional candidate; and Francis, an intelligent and passionate individual, who just happens to believe he's Abraham Lincoln. Well, maybe he believes he’s Lincoln and maybe he’s crafty at playing that he is Lincoln.

When Leo begins to use some of Lincoln’s historical words for inspiration, as supplied by Francis, the level of politics is raised to new ethical heights. There is actually a turn toward the truthful and the honest. Well, at least from the standpoint of the speeches being given. In the process, Strand’s pointed dagger digs deep into innuendos about the present inept leader in the White House and members of congress.

The term Lincolnesque is generally defined as “like or characteristic of Abraham Lincoln: a Lincolnesque compassion.” That’s the definition, but don’t get the idea that this is a play about the legacy of honest Abe. ‘LINCOLNESQUE’ is a comedy. It is a highly entertaining story of brothers who exasperate each other, adversaries who step on each other, and co-workers who spar—then sleep with—each other.

As delightful as many of the lines are, without superb casting and on-target directing, the play could fall flat. Fear not. CPH has a fine cast, and under the adept direction of Michael Bloom, the production is a pleasant exploration.

This is one of those rare productions where every actor seems well suited to and at ease in their roles. As a result, you have a chemistry between the players that allows for excellent comic timing. The result is that everyone, cast and audience, has a good time. (Of course if you are a member of those 70 or so percent who have no confidence in Bush and company, you’ll be totally delighted as the barbs pierce the facade of “compassion” and “honesty.”)

Donald Carrier, who plays Francis, doesn’t portray Lincoln, but is an obvious nut case who thinks he’s Lincoln. His fake beard and deadpan delivery are right on target.

Brian Carter, who looks and sounds like T. R. Knight of TV’S “GRAY’S ANATOMY,” perfectly creates the role of Leo, the insecure speech writer with enough self-esteem issues to make the word “neurotic” seem like an understatement in describing his psychological state.

Tracey Conyer Lee has the attitude edge that makes her a freight train, filled with blind ambition, who doesn’t have the slightest idea of what she is doing as a campaign manager. The play’s laugh highlight is her undressing the toady Leo as she seduces him.

Walter Charles is fine in the dual roles of Stanton, Francis’ indigent friend, and Daly, a brash political king maker.

Capsule judgement: ‘LINCOLNESQUE’ is well paced, well-conceived and well acted. It is a delightful way to start Fusionfest.

Special appreciation to Roe Green, the honorary producer of Fusionfest. Roe, who is a former student, does me proud each time she steps up to sponsor this and many other Cleveland area arts projects. Standing ovation to ROE!