Matthew Boston and Eve Danzeisen in The Body Politic
(© Carol Rosegg)
Matthew Boston and Eve Danzeisen in The Body Politic
(© Carol Rosegg)
Richard Abrons and Margarett Perry's new comedy, The Body Politic, now at 59E59 Theatres, appears to have been written with boxing gloves on, since it hits its jokes with a pounding emphasis. Almost everything about this attempted satire lands (or does not land) with a thud.

Based on the literal concept that politics makes strange bedfellows, the play concerns a romance between two high-powered aides, Spencer Davis (Matthew Boston), who is helming the campaign of the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States, and Trish Rubenstein (Eve Danzeisen), who is working directly for the Democratic candidate. Just in case the audience doesn't get the reference to this pair being the real-life equivalents of James Carville and Mary Matalin, the playwrights make sure to have their characters mention it not once, but twice.

The central idea here is that there will be an engaging romantic tension as they spar with each other about their clashing political beliefs -- and that they will eventually fall in love, much against their own wills. Meanwhile, we also go back and forth between both campaigns to witness the tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum machinations of these two as they try and use this romance to their best advantage.

Not only does a comedy like this need a light, bright touch, which is sorely lacking in Perry's direction, but the audience should like the two lovers. In this case, only Boston's character has some winning charm. One wonders why he would be attracted to the shrill Trish; the fact that she's pretty is simply not enough to explain his feelings. (The fault lies in the writing, not Danziesen's work.)

Happily, the supporting characters are written and acted with some much-needed flair. As the presidential candidates, Brian Dykstra and Daren Kelly are amusingly oily, while Leslie Hendrix and Michael Puzzo add spice and humor to the roles of two older aides.

Perry follows the time-honored path of having her actors deliver their lines in the rapid-fire style of a 1930s screwball comedy. Given the mediocre quality of the play, the chief advantage of this tactic is that it gets the audience out of the theater that much faster.