The play opens on the night Maynard Jackson is elected, and though Jackson himself never enters, we're introduced to a group of characters whose lives will be profoundly changed by his election. At a midtown condo that's acted as district headquarters, a few campaign workers gather to celebrate and look ahead, to anticipate and fret about what the future might hold. There's an uncertainty that's at once exhilarating and terrifying for these characters who will soon have the brightest of spotlights shined on every aspect of their now very public lives.
Unfortunately, there's a bit of stiffness in the first act that takes a while to wear off. The characters are campaign workers who must project a clean-cut public image (indeed the disparity between truth and image is a major plot point) but things become somehow too ploddingly talky, ceremonious, and expository to capture our fascination. There are far too many comings and goings: someone's always rushing in or out, though it's only a five-character play. It's a long first act: long on talk and busyness, short on emotion and real action.
Crystal Fox's character Evie, the ex-wife of high-ranking campaign official J.P. Madison, doesn't enter until the first act is well underway, but it's with her arrival that the show finally starts to loosen up and develop some sparks. The proceedings finally become truly compelling, exuberantly so, in the second act.
Set designer Brian Sidney Bembridge and costume designer Lex Liang have done an excellent job of evoking the '70s era without wallowing in the decade's famous stylistic excesses or dragging out familiar cliches: the set is based on real townhomes in Midtown, and the costumes are partially based on archival photos of Jackson's campaign. It's '70s Atlanta realness.
The play ends with Evie's sweet and hopeful suggestion that a lot of the animosity and suspicion that have plagued the city might be fixable with a chat over a round of mimosas. It's a combination of dreamy idealism and localized, practical realism. Who knows? Perhaps all that our brash, power-broking, hard-working, fractured city needs is some more champagne. Although the show is problematically uneven, in the end, it's charming, funny Evie Madison who makes us believe such a thing is possible.
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