By Marcina Zaccaria
Jeane Kirkpatrick spouts political wisdom at Reagan’s Athena.
While political drama can be hard-hitting, Reagan’s Athena is more like an acute career study. UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick is the shining star of the Reagan Administration, tackling the crisis in Nicaragua. In the Hollywood-friendly era of the Communication President, Kirkpatrick is represented as the tough talking, strong-willed force behind crisis resolution in Latin America in the mid-1980s.
The backdrop of Latin politics has never sounded so contentious. Sharon Talbot plays the savvy diplomat, Kirkpatrick. There are no punches thrown, but many outstanding debates between Nora Astorga (Keri Uribe) and Jeane Kirkpatrick. As figureheads, they slowly reveal the crisis, as it erupts after 1984. With stunning green landscapes of Latin America behind them, they discuss woman to woman, how to tactically advance in their disparate worlds. Though this is some of the most dialectically challenging (and politically energized) text in the script, it might not be the most dramatic.
Writer Louis Nevaer provides smart introductory scenes featuring Carlos Gonzalez (Lee Garrett) and Nora Astorga. Similarly, there are parallel, convincing performances between by Steven Hauck as Charles Reynolds and Sharon Talbot. The play shows enough reverence for the actual political figures. Is Kirkpatrick really Athena, through the wisdom and war of the decade? Is the writer too interested in a “bitchy” world? The word, “bitch,” is used continually throughout the play. Wrapped up in the word, is some of the grittier emotion of the decade.
In approaching the text, the actors look like they are still fine-tuning points in the drama. Searching for meaning in the dense, layered story, the overall execution of the play feels a bit dragged down. Perhaps, in calibration, the actors are selling their political arena a bit short. The New York International Fringe Festival celebrates quickly prepared actors’ theater, but this production is scant while it’s quippy – without visual complexity and dimension. The movement is a bit static. The set is little more than tables and chairs.
Leave it to the scenes between Ronald Reagan (Bill Conner) and Nancy Reagan to keep everyone amused by the glamourous world of their Oval Office. In the era where shoulder pads stand firm and strong strategies of engagement are thrown around as often as astrological findings. As Nancy Reagan, Carol Kuykendal keeps the stage bright and whimsical.
It is a joy to step back to this era, revisit the courage and tenacity of the 80s, and listen again to some of the old debates. Like a good idea that springs from one’s head, it would be inspiring if the play was lifted up, out of the workshop phase.
Reagan’s Athena is playing at The Players Theatre, located at 115 MacDougal St, in NYC. The show is running until Saturday, August 27.
Photo: Robert Levinstein