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A More Perfect Union

Vern Theissen's romantic drama about two U.S. Supreme Court clerks is old-fashioned and banal. logo
Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. and Melissa Friedman
in A More Perfect Union
(© Carol Rosegg)
Every few years, our interest in the Supreme Court is piqued. Usually, as is currently the case, the cause for curiosity is a vacancy. One would think this situation might make Vern Theissen's A More Perfect Union, now being presented by the Epic Theater Company at the East 13th Street Theater, particularly timely. Instead, its less-than-credible romance, poor grasp of reality, and glib dialogue make this two-hander a resolutely old-fashioned affair.

It's late one night in the Supreme Court library after the justices have retired for the evening. But two idealist law clerks (Melissa Friedman and Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr.) are burning the midnight oil. Somehow, they've never met and don't even know whom the other works for. But the real point isn't who their employers are, but that she's white, Jewish and conservative and he's black, Christian, and liberal -- and opposites attract.

The skeletal plot first has them trying to one-up each other to convince justices to hear cases and then bonding together to speed up their work. In the world of the play, this is a big no-no. Moreover, while we're supposed to believe that these two are among the most academically distinguished young lawyers in America, he treats the library (beautifully designed by Troy Hourie) like a pick-up lounge and she acts like a lost college freshman.

The inevitable romance might have added some charm to the play, but it is all borne out of bickering. Thiessen's dialogue screams old-school sitcom. Both characters speak largely to set up the other's reply. It's all rhythm and no substance. At least, Friedman and Simmons are confident enough performers to handle the empty banter without blinking. (This is especially impressive in exchanges like, "We are not what this place wants." / "But we are what this place needs.")

Still, this flattened-out and often dumbed-down drama seems less like an argument that love conquers all than that banality does.


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