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Thursday, April 5, 2012

"The Best Man Revisited"

Regular Blog readers may remember an exchange I had with Huffington Post blogger Rob Taub concerning his claim that Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” currently on Broadway is a bipartisan play.  Now that the reviews are out, I thought it would be interested to look and see what the critics thought about the play's politics.  Below is a sampling which I think shows rather well that these critics rightly saw the clear political statement Vidal was making in the play.  When we read the comparisons between Cantwell and Russell, the plays conservative and liberal candidates, let’s bare in mind that Vidal reffered to Cantwell as “the worst man in the play”
"While Vidal’s chief inspirations for these composite characters were Adlai Stevenson and Richard Nixon, respectively, there are glimmers of any number of contemporary figures in both men. Larroquette’s Russell has the patrician air of John Kerry, the philandering reputation of Bill Clinton and even a touch of Barack Obama’s brainy remoteness, which he’s constantly reminded is a political liability, along with his erudite humor. McCormack’s Cantwell is a folksy populist in the Sarah Palin mold and an ostentatiously religious attack dog à la Rick Santorum. "
"For his battling candidates, Vidal created the liberal William Russell, a philosophically lofty former secretary of state whose womanizing has put his marriage in the deep freeze, and the conservative Senator Joseph Cantwell, whose wholesome family life masks a ruthless determination to acquire power."
"Vidal's insights resonate today, whether in Tea Party true-believer pressure or birth control controversies, to the point of being scary."
"For those unfamiliar with Vidal's politics, Russell is a proud liberal and Cantwell a darling of the conservative set — though the latter's many flaws include a readiness to adapt his positions according to the polls. Cantwell is called a "ring-tailed wonder" more than once, and in a climactic confrontation, Russell hisses at him, "You are worse than a liar. You have no sense of right or wrong."
I think it is clear that the critics have no doubt what political persuasion the play is promoting.


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