Confederates by Suzanne Bradbeer, which won a Silver Medallion in the Moss Hart & Kitty Carlisle Hart New Play Initiative, takes advantage of the current political climate to present an intimate drama set in a presidential campaign. Stephanie (Melissa R. Randel), a hard boiled reporter on the cusp of being encouraged to take an honorable exit, and Will (Daryl C. Brown), a charismatic up-and-comer, have a competitive, almost friendly relationship as they travel in the whirlwind of the candidate’s crusade for election. On the eve of a debate, the candidate’s daughter, Maddie (Miranda Lichtman), a college senior majoring in art, encounters Will. Both attended the same summer camp. Although Will was much older, he remembers her. Maddie admits that she, along with all the other girls, had a crush on him.
In their far ranging encounter, Maddie reveals her passion for the thorny African American past, including her reverence for Harriet Tubman, and her desire to make art projects that delve into that realm. The chair of her department questions the appropriateness of taking on such sensitive projects given her callow understanding of the dynamics of the Black experience past and present. Maddie shows a compromising photo to Will, taken by a boyfriend and sent through the Internet. Will is horrified. He realizes that such a photo will inevitably escape and cause political chaos in her father’s campaign. The drama shifts to a test of ethics between Will, who wants to manage the story to prevent damage to the girl, and Stephanie who sees a national story and wants to seize on it before anybody else.
Playwright Suzanne Bradbeer crafts an engrossing drama replete with snappy dialogue that calls to my mind the sizzling interplay between characters in Front Page. Mr. Brown shows a crackle of star power in his performance. He is well matched by the scrappy intensity of Ms. Randel. Ms. Lichtman as Maddie carries the emotional weight of the play and displays more commanding power than one might expect in an ingénue. Christopher Hart keeps the action brisk, save for a few hiccups in pace late in the show, which has more to do with the playwright than director.
Presented by Grove Theater Center in association with Colony Theatre Company, Confederates runs in repertory with Exit Wounds by Wendy Graf, the other winner of the Moss Hart & Kitty Carlisle Hart New Play Initiative, through December 16 at Grove Theater Center (GTC Burbank)1111-b West Olive Avenue in Burbank. One play will be named the Gold Medallion winner and open on March 13, 2019 for a six-week, off-Broadway run in the 196-seat “Theater A” at 59E59 Theaters in New York City.