Reviewing the debate

by John Middleton • Oct. 17

After words |

"Fantastic theater but not decisive politics" is today's headline from Jon Healy of the LA Times.

Was last night's debate "fantastic theater?" Not according to a few people I asked.

"The harsh, overhead lighting and temporary red, white and blue set dressing did little to hide the enormity of the Moderator’s (named 'Candy Crowley' in one of the play's more satirical turns) inexplicably brown costume, whose sheer shoulder span rivaled both candidate's when standing side-by-side, but failed to provide the character with the gravitas necessary to remain in control. Three and a half kitties." Shanan Custer

"The director of this piece doesn't seem to have put much thought into the overall arc or feel of the show, which caused this production to be confusing for this audience member. The cast, though aided by two rather distracting time clocks on monitors, still seemed not to know what their lines or blocking were, as if they were simply making it up as they went along. The scenic and lighting elements were minimal in design, which only aided in pointing out how unprepared the cast seemed to be. The sound was great. You could really hear what the cast was saying, even if the lines themselves didn’t make much sense." Penny Kissinger

"This show started with such promise - a sense of anticipation, suspense, and interesting characters right off the bat. But once it got going, there was very little plot or substance. Too many monologues, and when there was dialogue, the actors didn't listen to each other very well; in fact they seemed confused about when it was their line or someone else's. I found that one character, the smug guy, not believable at all. Pretty ineffective staging, felt flat, I guess it was a little like opera with the actors just coming down center every time they spoke. Lights, sound, costumes were all rather predictable. Good conflict though; I especially liked when the one guy called the other guy offensive. Overall though, a show without a sense of conclusion, heart or honesty. Made me glad I was at home so I could go to the kitchen for chocolate and more wine when things got tedious." Leah Cooper

"Gun control laws were discussed, but the debate failed to follow the rule of 'Chekhov's gun,' wherein a loaded gun shown onstage in the first act ought to be fired in a later act. Why all the foreshadowing with the two stools if neither candidate was going to smash one over the other’s head? Speaking of empty chairs, I imagined Clint Eastwood taking up a vacant seat in the front row, and Mitt excitedly asking Candy if he could go back and do “Paint Your Covered Wagons” again. (Anybody? Anybody?)" Ian Miller

"Much like the title role in War Horse, the technical staff of the debate almost, made me believe I was seeing a real live Mitt Romney. Also, I'm guessing Theatre Unbound would like their binders back." Zach Curtis

"I really appreciated that Presidential Debate II: The Reckoning Pas-De-Deux made full use of live video, allowing those of us who could not make the one-night only engagement to enjoy it from comfortable couches with full access to alcohol and the internet. The "town hall" scenic design was almost disappointing in its realism. Harsh lighting (WHERE were the sidelights and warm tones?) did nothing for the sparse set, which lacked any kind of focal point. However, I loved the Everyman character of the "Democratic Candidate" and the Iago-like representation of the "Republican Candidate", who succeeded in stirring up real feelings of revulsion in me. Candy Crowley, in her debut as "The Moderator", was an interesting, if tentative, choice. I lament the unfortunate hairstyles of some of the audience members but I loved Phil Tricolla, who had a brief but memorable cameo as a stuttering New York Jew, straight out of a Woody Allen movie! I can't wait to see more of him." Katharine Horowitz

As the debate took place, Levi Weinhagen was distressed to see that a number of the questioners were not off book and that there were too many obvious staging mistakes. "Romney needs to remember that when playing in the round you need to block for the whole audience."

Personally, I enjoyed the improvisatory nature of the proceedings, I liked the costumes and I thought Romney gave his liveliest performance since his role as Ensign #2 in the Star Trek episode, "Dagger of the Mind." My only complaint was with the fakey, over-the-top New Yawk accents of the questioners. Get a better dialect coach next time, guys!

What did you think?