NY1 Theater Review: "The Best Man"
Gore Vidal's "The Best Man" is back on Broadway with an all-star cast. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
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It's 52 years old and the average age of its lead actors is 62, yet the Best Man is remarkably vibrant. Gore Vidal's drama about a fictitious presidential election is a captivatingly prescient work that examines the underside of American politics. And if that doesn't grab you, it stars some of the theatre's finest veterans at the top of their form, all of which makes "The Best Man" an unqualified winner.
The year is 1960. Former Secretary of State William Russell and Senator Joe Cantwell are battling for their party's nomination. Set mostly in their respective hotel rooms during the convention, they’re vying for the former president’s coveted endorsement.
Under Michael Wilson's superb staging, Vidal's story, told with high-minded eloquence, is intellectually gripping and witty. And he captures all the dimensions of political life, the hypocrisy, dirty dealings and nasty rhetoric.
Russell, the more honorable of the rivals, is no saint. John Larroquette, both dignified and wonderfully irreverent, is sublime. On the dark side, is Eric McCormack who does very well as the aptly named Cantwell. Playing the wives, Candice Bergen’s natural elegance is matched by Kerry Butler’s crass southern belle. Michael McKean and Jefferson Mays are equally impressive. But the two octogenarians outshine them all. Angela Lansbury as a feisty southern party leader and James Earl Jones - the president - are giving legendary performances.
If you call yourself a fan of the theatre, missing them do their thing would be a tragedy.
I had always thought of "The Best Man" as an old chestnut. But Vidal’s pithy observations about such things as the war on intellectualism and the role of religion and contraception in presidential politics could easily have been written today. This exhilarating production is truly one of the year’s best and happily gets my vote.