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Farragut North

Star Trek's Chris Pine is excellent in Beau Willimon's sharp and incisive political drama.

By Los Angeles
Chris Pine in Farragut North
(© Michael Lamont)
Chris Pine in Farragut North
(© Michael Lamont)
The most recent Star Trek movie has made Chris Pine an instantly recognizable celebrity, but the actor's excellent work in Beau Willimon's Farragut North, now at the Geffen Playhouse, proves he's more than just a movie star. Pine -- who has a solid stage background -- delivers a multilayered and riveting performance in Willimon's sharp and incisive poltical drama, set shortly before the Iowa caucus of a (fictional) Presidential campaign.

Pine plays Stephen, a press secretary working for a Democratic candidate. At 25, Stephen is widely regarded as being one of the best in his field. Complications begin after he agrees to meet with Tom Duffy (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), who works for the opposition candidate. Stephen also sleeps with a 19-year-old intern named Molly (Olivia Thirlby), who will end up playing a much larger role in his troubles than either initially realize.

The production, under the assured direction of Doug Hughes, began at New York's Atlantic Theater Company, with Tony Award winner John Gallagher, Jr. as Stephen. Pine has a more physically imposing presence than the slight-framed Gallagher, giving his Stephen a more dangerous edge. This is particularly true of his final scene with Thirlby's Molly, in which Pine's greater height contributes to the almost casual way that Stephen takes control of their interaction.

Several of the New York cast members are reprising their roles for the Geffen production. Chris Noth -- who plays Stephen's boss, Paul -- seems to be pushing a little harder than he had in New York, particularly in a scene where Paul meets Stephen in an airport. Thirlby is pitch-perfect as Molly; she and Pine have terrific chemistry, and their scenes together are the production's most compelling. Whitlock exudes a calm but calculated oiliness, particularly as Duffy outlines some of the dirty politics that he's dreamed up. Dan Bittner, as Stephen's assistant Ben, captures the character's eagerness to please, as well as his ambition.

New to the production is Mia Barron, who does a fantastic job as New York Times reporter Ida, particularly in an Act Two scene in which she bluntly disabuses Stephen of the notion that their interactions are based on friendship. Her first priority is getting a good story, regardless of who might get hurt. Unfortunately, Justin Huen doesn't convince in either of his two small roles, particularly as a talkative waiter who discourses on his family's troubled situation in a speech that could also use a bit of trimming.

Farragut North has a structure akin to a classic tragedy. Stephen begins at the top of his game, with a cockiness that crosses over into arrogance. He makes an error in judgment, leading to his own downfall, and the actions he takes along the way also have serious consequences for several of the other characters in the play. Willimon's outlook on politics is certainly cynical, yet he's sufficiently fleshed out the majority of his characters to emphasize their human dilemma, rather than simply making easy moral pronouncements on backstage politicking.


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