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NY1 Theater Review: "The City of Conversation"

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Lincoln Center Theater has debuted "The City of Conversation," a new politically charged work that follows a political hostess through three decades in Washington. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

Lincoln Center is premiering yet another powerfully trenchant play featuring characters - real and imagined - in a politically charged setting. With his disarmingly titled "City Of Conversation", playwright Anthony Giardina has penned a corker of a drama both shattering and humorous; and he's gifted the ever radiant Jan Maxwell with the role of a lifetime.

Hester Ferris is a Washington hostess with the mostest in 1979. The wealthy socialite is passionately liberal and willing to go the distance for a worthy political cause. How far she's willing to go, or rather what she's willing to lose, becomes the central conflict in this engrossing work.

At curtain Hester's son Colin has just come home from college to introduce his girlfriend Anna. The dynamic is awkward at first, but as the plot thickens and the time shifts to 1987, we find that Colin and Anna, now married with child, have crossed the political aisle. And so when President Reagan nominates conservative judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, the family is bitterly divided.

Doug Hughes' immaculate production crackles with the intensity of a tight race on election night. His 10 member cast is outstanding. As Colin (later playing his grown son), Michael Simpson and Kristen Bush as the opportunistic Anna are fine foils without crossing entirely over to villainy. Beth Dixon is terrific as Hester's put-upon but devoted sister; and Maxwell, using every tool in the actor's arsenal, aims for the jugular in her conversational duels. She's magnificent in this work spanning 30 years, wondrously transforming before our eyes.

There's no doubt where Giardina stands politically. But no matter what side of the fence you're on, "City of Conversation" has much to say about family, sacrifice and the cyclical nature of politics. And it gets my vote as one of the best new plays in years.

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