The City of Conversation, at the Kavinoky Theatre in Buffalo, is a must-see presentation. The actors are strong—the plot stimulating and the emotional tension riveting. The backdrop for the drama, the fight between the Democrats and the Republicans between 1979 and 2009, is like watching Trump versus Hillary. When lead actor, Hester Ferris, a Washington socialite and Ted Kennedy supporter, played by Kristen Tripp Kelley, pits off against young upstart Republican and Reagan backer, Anna Fitzgerald, portrayed by Aleks Malejs, fireworks fly.
Photo courtesy of Kahle Bostaph
Even if this was the only storyline in the drama, it would be worth watching. But playwright, Anthony Giardina, has added much much more.
All of the characters have relationship difficulties—possibly because of their addiction to ideology. They relate to each other by throwing facts and accusations. The power struggle is palpable, in David King’s dark and masterful living room, Hector’s domicile, where all of the action takes place. In the first act, Hector holds court, and dominates everyone in the room at her famous Georgetown dinner parties with her wit, intellect and charm. In the second act, it is clearly Anna’s play, and the younger woman becomes more and more a carbon copy of Hector— minus the civility.
This play is a cross between Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls and Lillian Hellman’s Little Foxes. There is evil brewing underneath the pot, percolating the women’s cynicism and ambition. These are not nice women—but they are easily identifiable in their progression from 1970’s social manipulation to 1990’s corporate climbing. Rather than a David Mamet surface exploration of a particular gender, this story line, or presentation, is not flat, but multi-layered. The audience cares about these characters because they are real, desperate and vulnerable. Both women unmask their pain and passion as they attempt to destroy one another. The men are pawns in their efforts to win the game. David Lundy plays an appropriately smarmy insect as Hector’s amour, Chandler Harris—an important liberal Democrat—drawn irresistibly to Hector’s light, until it almost extinguishes his own.
Adriano Gatto, puts in a commendable performance as Hector’s son, Colin. He mindlessly loats back and forth between the two women like a badminton birdie, until he eventually rejects both of them. Gatto also plays Colin’s adult son, Ethan, who gradually gravitates towards his grandmother near the play’s conclusion, leaving audience members with the feeling Hector has won. Or has she?
The City of Conversation is playing at the Kavinoky Theatre on the campus of D’Youville College in Buffalo until March 20th.