Theater

Well Researched, A More Perfect Union Remains Uninhabited

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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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