A Power Play

Pseudo Hillary battles sexism, shaky dramaturgy

Hillary Clinton is a lesbian. Hillary Clinton doesn't bake cookies. Hillary Clinton took her husband's name only when it proved politically expedient. Hillary Clinton is a bad mother.

Anti-Clinton websites and biographies trumpet an abundance of accusation and innuendo regarding the Democratic candidate, much of it relating to her private life. Of course, muddling the personal and the political is hardly a recent phenomenon. In a favorite election-year chant from the 1880s, Republicans taunted Grover Cleveland with the supposed cry of his bastard: "Ma, ma, where's my Pa?" (The rejoinder: "Gone to the White House. Ha, ha, ha.") An illegitimate child failed to scupper Cleveland's candidacy, but a lack of baking expertise may harm Clinton's. Her performance as a wife and mother sometimes receives more attention than her voting record.

At least for a moment, Karl Gajdusek's Fair Game imagines a world in which this isn't the case. Late in the presidential campaign of Governor Karen Werthman (Joy Franz), her Republican opponent makes her an offer. Senator Bill Graber (Ray McDavitt) suggests abandoning all mud-throwing and saxophone-playing and refocusing on policy. "There's two weeks till this thing is over," he says. "That's two weeks that can be about this wedding, and your dead husband, and my drinking problem. . . . So we turn this around. 'No comment.' Just take away all the trash and get back to the issues. Feel good about what we're doing. Just for two weeks." Naively, the governor agrees.

Karen is a blond woman in her late fifties with a famous husband (now deceased) and a failed health-care bill to her name. Clearly, Gajdusek intends some comparisons with Mrs. Clinton, but that's only one of his goals in this ambitious but uneven drama. On Super Tuesday, Karen's son Simon (Chris Henry Coffey) arrives with late-breaking news. A Princeton poli-sci professor, Simon has been dismissed pending an investigation into his sexual misconduct with a comely undergrad.

As in Greedy, which played earlier this summer, Gajdusek proves himself capable of creating complicated, desirous characters. But rather than allowing them to inhabit their own narratives, he seems too eager to push them into larger thematic arenas. Characters abandon their particular circumstances to discourse on sex, power, truth, etc. Even Simon's academic work reflects this. Though micro-histories are now all the rage, he's at work on a grand unified theory of human progress.

Gajdusek doesn't manage these moves from the specific to the general gracefully. Nor does director Andrew Volkoff, whose jerky scene endings and transitions further jumble the script—he could use a grand unified theory of his own. Fair Game's an intelligent play, but an awkward, inelegant one. As Al Gore might testify, that won't get anyone elected.

 
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