Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Washington's Mosaic Theater Company is presenting the East Coast premiere of Baitz's play Vicuña, which had its first production in Los Angeles in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign. This production pairs the play with a brief new work, The American Epilogue, which looks at what happened after the events of the first play.
The fictional candidate Kurt Seaman (John de Lancie) is a loud-mouthed real estate mogul with a beautiful, savvy daughter whose name is a punchline (Laura C. Harris). His casual racism and inability to stay on message are balanced by a sharp intelligence, a knowledge of what he wants and how, eventually, to get it, and even a sort of nobilityunlike his real-world counterparts.
The third presidential debate is coming up and Seaman decides he needs the best suit money can buy if he's going to crush the opponent he calls "Madame Pantsuit." He goes to the elegant atelier of Anselm (Brian George), a bespoke tailor to the famous and infamous (he name drops Ronald Reagan, Idi Amin, and Henry Kissinger), and his apprentice Amir (Haaz Sleiman). ("Apprenticeship is good," Seaman says.) They are both immigrants from Iran, one Jewish (Anselm) and the other Muslim (Amir), and they face the moral choice of whether to dress a man who, if his rhetoric is to be believed, doesn't want them in his country.
Nothing is simple, of course. Amir has had the benefit of an elite education, which places him on equal terms with Seaman's daughter; she likes his intellect, as her (offstage) fiancé is more devoted to her father than he is to her. The arrival of the head of the Republican National Committee (Kimberly Schraf), in blonde helmet hair and a red suit, brings in another viewpoint and agenda.
Director Robert Egan, who also staged the Los Angeles production, has a confident way of bringing together the disparate pieces of the work: broad satire, pointed commentary, moments of just plain silliness, and the elegiac quality of the epilogue. De Lancie's bullying portrayal and George's politic calm play admirably off each other; Sleiman gives an effective performance, but at times his delivery takes on a sing-song quality. Harris and Schraf take what they're given and run with it.
Mosaic Theater Company