Keegan founder and artistic director Mark A. Rhea headlines the production as the cerebral, principled Russell…Combined with Rhea’s square jaw and precisely measured speech, Russell teeters on the edge of movie star caricature. However, Vidal was careful to imbue his lead with key touches of realism, including a quirky superstitious streak and JFK-esque penchant for womanizing.
Cantwell balances out Russell’s principled campaigning with his ruthless ambition. Actor Colin Smith seems completely at home as a political shark swimming among minnows. Smith radiates charisma built upon unshakable determination to win; it’s hard to totally dislike him, even as he antagonizes his nobler opponent.
Ultimately, The Best Man is a crackling cautionary tale about the struggle between virtue and ambition at the highest levels of power and in everyday life.”
Veteran actor Kevin Adams makes hay out of Hockstader’s blend of southern charm and dogged political instincts. Adams’ formidable performance is the anchor that grounds the show as it swings back and forth between the Russell and Cantwell camps.
Susan Marie Rhea provides some welcome lightness as the chatty socialite Mrs. Cantwell. She shares her husband’s desire for power but reveals cracks in her armor with constant nervous chatter in tense moments…Rena Cherry Brown also leaves her mark with minimal stage time as Sue-Ellen Gamadge, a savvy power broker with the ability to swing the female vote to whichever candidate best meets her criteria.
Co-directors Christina Coakley and Timothy Lynch create an ever present tension as the two candidates race to conceal the skeletons in their closet…