“Dally With The Devil”: Power Plays, Blackmail, Media Spin… Politics As Usual!
Watching Victor L. Cahn’s sharp new play, “Dally With the Devil”, directed by Eric Parness, made me think of the classic 1939 MGM film “The Women”. For those who don‘t remember, the entire cast of that movie was female. The film’s intriguing tagline was “It’s all about the Men”– even though no men actually appeared on screen. Similarly, “Dally With the Devil” is “all about the men” as well. Specifically, it’s about two men who are both running for the same seat as Senator. Make no mistake, however; this is 2011, not 1939. While the women in “Dally With the Devil” are not running for public office themselves, it’s clear that they are not just silent supporters of political movers and shakers; they are equally powerful players in a game where, like love and war, all is fair.
In “Dally With the Devil“, we learn just how much power these women have. The play opens at the idyllic beachside getaway home of Charlotte (Erika Rolfsrud), a journalist who writes for an influential blog named Demon.com. Ivory Girl-prettiness aside, the ultra- sarcastic blogger is completely aware of her own power. She‘s not above using pitbull-like ferocity and invoking the “public’s right to know” to get her info– even if, as one character states, she employs such tactics as stealing and blackmail to do so. (The character’s feminine but no-nonsense persona may remind you of Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda Hobbes in “Sex and the City”, if Miranda had maybe chosen journalism over law) In the first act, she is visited by her former professor, Irene Hopkins (Elizabeth Norment), now blunt-spoken and seemingly world-weary. The dramatic tension is clearly palpable as soon as the two women greet each other. Right away, we sense that these two ladies are too wary to be “friends”– and that this isn’t just a visit to reminisce about old times. Irene has quite a story for her former student. She unleashes a potentially explosive revelation about what happened during a certain right-leaning Senatorial candidate’s military career a few years back… and it’s all purportedly verified by documentation. Even if a portion of these accusations prove true, they would kill any political career. Later on, Charlotte gets another visitor, this one unexpected: Megan Hunter (Elizabeth A. Davis), a former Marine who has traded her fatigues for lipstick and skirts. Her staid demeanor, however, remains intact from her military career. Megan has a close but titillatingly undefined relationship with a certain right-leaning Senatorial candidate. Yep, it’s the same man who Irene was trying to smear a few days prior. And like Irene, Megan presents Charlotte with some accusatory documents over her own, the target being (You guessed it!) her man’s political opponent. Megan’s revelations initially do not impress the notorious blogger, until the veteran unleashes one that’s too big to ignore. Then, in one stroke, the play is not just about just the two male politicos. It becomes just as much about the trio of women themselves– especially their individual motivations. Even the most astute of audience members will be taken by surprise with the dramatic manipulations that ensue in the tense Third Act, when all three of the actors are on stage together. One of the characters states, “Am I wrong, or is this awkward?” She’s not wrong…
“Dally With the Devil” features superb acting by all three players. Throughout the running time, a recurring theme is how individual ambitions (and occasionally, opportunism…) can be the motivation behind everything from “patriotism”, to pursuit of a specific socio-political agenda, to getting a “great story” in the name of the “public’s right to know”, et cetera… These characters also remind us that women not only can play the political game as well as men, but that they can– for better of worse– make and break the rules with equal zeal.
“Dally With the Devil” is playing through October 8th at The Beckett Theatre on Theater Row, 410 W. 42nd St on Tuesdays at 7PM, Wednesday through Friday at 8PM, Saturdays at 2PM and 8PM, and Sundays at 3PM. Visit www.Telecharge.com or call (212)239-6200 for tickets. For more info, visit www.DallyWiththeDevil.com.