As the presidential election nears, many Princeton students have no doubt been scrutinizing the candidates’ respective stances on the issues, trying to figure out whom to choose. Well, perhaps not all students are this engaged, but surely everyone at least knows who the candidates are. So posters around campus telling students to “Vote Werthman” were no doubt initially confusing.
These posters are advertising Theatre Intime’s complex new play, “Fair Game” a show that is, according to one viewer, “fifty percent political and fifty percent provocative.” (To this, her male companion replied: “I’m seeing it for the 50% provocative.”) Although the play centers around a political election with certain provocative elements, it cannot be reduced to a simple 50-50 equation. Complex character connections and unexpected plot twists keep the audience captivated throughout Fair Game’s two and a half hour running time.
The play begins two weeks before Super Tuesday. Presidential candidate Gov. Karen Werthman (Annie Preis ’07) is ahead in the polls, thanks to the careful planning of her campaign manager, Miranda Carter (Tawny Chritton ’06). However, her lead is jeopardized when her son, Princeton history professor Simon Werthman (John P. Miller ’07), is dismissed for “sexual misconduct” with one of his students, undergraduate Elizabeth Rain (Nicole Greenbaum ’07). Knowing his dismissal will harm his mother’s campaign, Simon returns to his mother’s home to warn her before the press finds out. His unexpected appearance causes a cold, tense exchange with his mother, and the news he relates throws both his mother and Miranda into a frenzy.
Attempts to “spin” this unanticipated situation to the governor’s advantage are interrupted by many unexpected occurrences, including a surprise late-night visit by the slightly inebriated opposing presidential candidate, Ben Graber (Andy Hoover ’07).
Director Ronee Peroi ’07 explains that these ideas of the ‘unexpected’ and ‘spin’ form the central theme of the play. “It’s about intentions versus means, and the importance of taking risk. The play shows that when something happens, we should just go with it, and not be afraid of the unexpected.”
The format of the play emphasizes this theme. The scenes are not chronological, and often the audience is left guessing as to what exchanges between characters really mean. While this makes the play frustrating and confusing at first, everything is artfully brought together in the final scenes.
Similarly, the way that many of the characters develop is unanticipated. As the play progresses, characters either rise to meet unexpected trials or are undone by them, forcing the audience into a sort of moral ambivalence. For example, while we initially adore Miranda for her passion to see Karen elected, by the end we are disgusted by her ruthlessness. The inability to label characters as “good” or “bad” keeps the audience engaged in this ever-changing, dynamic production.
The audience’s view of the actors and actresses themselves changes as the play progresses. At first, Simon seems too dramatic, Karen too stoic, and Miranda too jittery to be believable. But by the end, the audience realizes that this is due primarily to the intensity of the characters they are portraying.
Performances of “Fair Game” run September 23-25 at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on September 25.