By Anne Wharton
Shards of American flag punctuate the ACC stage like fragments of a patriotic mirror during Farragut North. The broken flags loom throughout the play as the main character’s political career shatters underneath the set. “Scott Schumann (set designer) really wanted to portray a broken American; a political system operating broken,” director Perry Crafton says.
The audience watches that system destroy press secretary Stephen Bellamy’s career within the 24 hours that the play takes place. “He’s really a Greek character,” Patrick Shaffer says on playing Bellamy, “his huge character flaw is hubris and it completely destroys him.” Shaffer smoothly portrays the confident, untouchable press secretary on the campaign trail as the play opens. As the minutes tick by, the press secretary frantically clings to his reputation as he becomes jobless and inevitably hopeless.
The political drama is one of the most recent works appearing at ACC this season. The playwright, Beau Willimon, is perhaps best known for the Netflix’s original series House of Cards. “There’s a part of me that wants the audience to walk away angry with how the political system can be manipulated,” Crafton says. But the politics of Willimon’s Farragut North didn’t originally convince Crafton to present the current drama at ACC.
“The story is intense – it spoke to me on that level. And I liked the aspect of a contemporary story told through a classical drama structure,” Crafton says, “there’s Greek elements of tragedy contained in the play.” Guest artist Scot Friedman, who plays Paul Zara, was also captivated by the script. “Nowadays I look for roles that are interesting and compelling, for scripts that are interesting and compelling,” Friedman says about accepting the role.
With the 2016 election hovering in the air, Farragut North is a timely drama. “The political backdrop feeds the urgency of the play; it shows the audience how high the stakes are,” Crafton says. The dark drama doesn’t represent the hopeful side of politics, but rather makes an “unapologetic statement” as Crafton calls it. The broken flags onstage are a constant reminder of how the political system is being portrayed. With presidential campaigns swallowing up media spotlights, the play portrays a world uncomfortably recognizable.
Photos by Anne Wharton.