Well Researched, A More Perfect Union Remains Uninhabited

In the upper floors of the Supreme Court Library, imagine two clerks. Maddie is a Jewish Chicagoan who works for a conservative judge; James, a product of Atlanta's black elite, has a job with the most liberal judge. Can you guess what might happen between such people? Yes, you can. And Vern Thiessen's A More Perfect Union means to prove that you guessed correctly; there are few surprises in this well-researched but uninhabited one-act. Asshole lawyers at ideological odds court each other through angry flirtation, knotty arguments, and feverish coupling—who knew? James seduces Maddie, they clandestinely share information in order to influence their respective judges, and, in a development predicted several minutes ahead of schedule by the whispers of the large high school group in attendance, Maddie gets pregnant.

Melissa Friedman's unconvincingly conservative Maddie and Godfrey L. Simmons Jr.'s mush-mouthed James are forced to preen through some pretty television-y bits as director Ron Russell amps the coy exchanges and smug comebacks. Truly, you'd rather hang out with real lawyers. Nothing makes this pair of bar-crossed lovers' 11th-hour conversion to ethical behavior seem heartfelt, and worse, you're left with a faint aftertaste of racism and misogyny, feeling that the skeleton of the story is this: James ravages, impregnates, and thereby domesticates Maddie. If there were a second act—and, thankfully, there isn't—it would doubtless take place in family court.

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