Grenier, Aya Cash
by Deirdre Donovan
idealistic freshman congresswoman attempts to clean-up what’s wrong in Washington.
time for Sydney Millsap (Eisna Davis) to press the flesh at her fundraiser at
the swanky Four Seasons resort in Vail, Colorado. But the neophyte congresswoman
from Dallas hasn’t left her hotel room since she arrived at the ski resort
yesterday. The crackerjack lobbyist Kate (Gillian Jackobs), who gave thousands
of dollars to Millsap’s campaign committee to fly the congresswoman and her son
to Vail, is getting edgier by the moment. She wonders--as many others do—just
who is this Millsap?.
Burgess’ new play is all about the political wheeling-and-dealing that goes on
in Washington—and beyond. It has an intriguing character in Millsap (Eisna Davis),
an admirable dramatic style, and hot button-issues like opioid and healthcare.
But if its fictive world is up-to-date, its historical scope seems strangely
is a bit of a dark horse here. A war widow, she has skyrocketed into politics
like a star. Having impressively won a special election to fill the empty
House seat in her Dallas district, Millsap is now the buzz in political circles
around the Washington beltway.
Davis, Gillian Jackobs
said, Millsap has a blind-spot when it comes to dealing with the Washington moguls and sitting down at the table with them. She totally lacks political
diplomacy. She is bent on making Washington honest and extinguishing the
“carried interest” loophole. But, unfortunately, she comes across as
holier-than-thou, self-righteous, and terribly naïve for a 40-year-old black
woman. Add to this that she doesn’t particularly like fundraising (and arrives
late to her own fundraiser), and you can see that she has chinks in her gleaming
politically heat up in this play when Millsap refuses to cooperate with the
politicos. She first refuses to get on board with a podiatrist bill that the
lobbyist Kate presents to her at the fundraiser. She next ruffles the feathers
of Senator John McDowell (Zach Grenier), a fellow Texan and one of the “old
boys” on Capitol Hill. She doesn’t like what she feels is his insincerity and
how he wants her “to read the room” whenever she is meeting and greeting her
constituents. Her curt reply to him, in so many words, is that she doesn’t
change herself like a chameleon in her public life. She wants to be taken at
face value--or nothing.
unnecessary to relate all the minutiae about the special interest groups
mentioned in this story but passion undoubtedly spins the plot. While Millsap
on the surface seems remarkably reserved and in control of her emotions, she
too can be passionate and speak her mind when necessary. Nobody but nobody
understands taxes like her and she’s determined to pass new legislation that
would close the tax loopholes that she thinks are undermining the social and
economic fabric of the country.
real zinger in the play, however, is when the ambitious Millsap decides to run
against McDowell when he’s running for re-election to the Senate. Without
spoiling who wins the contest, the true colors of each candidate are revealed
during the contest.
it comes to the ensemble acting, the four-member cast-- Eisna Davis/Sidney
Millsap, Aya Cash/Lauren, Zach Grenier/Senator John McDowell, and Gillian
Jackobs/Kate--are serviceable but no standouts. Perhaps it’s all the political
fol-de-rol in the dialogue, but it’s sometimes difficult to see these
characters, except for Millsap, as anything more than Washington manipulators.
creators do a fine job at conjuring up the play’s various settings, which
zigzag from Vail . . . to the Washington area . . . to Dallas. Anna Louizos’
minimalist set design and Jason Lyons’ even-toned lighting bring a realistic
atmosphere to the stage. And Paul Tazewell’s crisp costumes are apropos for
these image-conscious public figures.
directed by Thomas Kail, the production never really catches fire. Even
Millsap fails to keep one’s interest as the plot unfolds—she’s glamorous but it’s
difficult to discern a beating human pulse beneath her manicured exterior.
the Pubic Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, Manhattan.
tickets and more information, phone (212) 967-7555 or www.publictheater.org
time: 1 hour; 40 minutes with no intermission.