Louis Ozawa Changchien and David Rasche
in Warrior Class
(© Carol Rosegg)
Louis Ozawa Changchien and David Rasche
in Warrior Class
(© Carol Rosegg)
Politics and scandal seem to go hand in hand these days. This cynical perspective permeates Kenneth Lin's intriguing but unevenly executed drama, Warrior Class, presented by Second Stage Theatre at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre under Evan Cabnet's direction.

In the play, up-and-coming politician Julius Lee (Louis Ozawa Changchien) wants to make a bid for Congress, but his past actions involving ex-girlfriend Holly (Katharine Powell) threaten to derail his career. As the play opens, veteran political handler Nathan (David Rasche) meets with Katharine to defuse the potential scandal, but his machinations may not always be in Julius' best interests.

It takes awhile for the play to hit its stride, partially due to the way the playwright has nearly every scene begin with the characters engaging in small talk prior to getting to the meat of the matter. This is perhaps intended to build mystery and suspense, but unfortunately, it is more likely to induce boredom.

Part of the problem is Rasche, whose halting line delivery slows down the pace of the production. And in fact, the only scene within the play that actually does feel charged with unspoken tension throughout is one that is just between Julius and Holly.

Powell is the standout in the cast, delivering a fully fleshed out character with a complex set of motivations that are always understandable, even if they are not always admirable.

Changchien, whose character is jokingly referred to in the play as the "Republican Obama," exudes confidence and charisma while simultaneously seeming to be holding something back. When Julius finally lets loose with some of his emotions in the final scene, it is powerful but also somewhat sad.

Warrior Class seems intended as a commentary on backroom politics, the influence wielded by those with money, and the kinds of deals that can make or break a politician's career. It's certainly a worthwhile message to get out -- particularly in an election year -- but the playwright needs to find a way to make it more compelling theater.