Arena Stage’s newly commissioned power play, CHANGE AGENT, takes a popular conspiracy theory and asks audiences to imagine how one “hidden” figure’s relationship with a President could have changed the course of history.
Mary Pinchot Meyer was an artist and DC socialite, a known hallucinogenic user, ex-wife of a CIA operative, and mistress to JFK. In the play, she also knew Kennedy as a child, remained friends with him and Jackie, and introduced Jack to powerful government notables before his Presidency — though none of this appears true.
Regardless, what does seem to be realistic is that Meyer was a liberally-minded activist that probably knew too much due to her CIA affiliations (her ex-husband was Cord Meyer) and had the occasion to influence the sitting President about national and foreign policies during pillow-talk. And if that’s true, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how she could have also been viewed by operatives as a loose cannon who knew too much after JFK’s assassination.
Tony Award-nominated playwright and director Craig Lucas (An American in Paris, The Light in the Piazza) takes advantage of the public’s craving for conspiracy to make audiences ponder how insiders like Meyer could have shaped the major decisions of the 60s. And then he goes a step farther to ask audiences to consider how these power plays affect the state of the nation today.
“The 1960s were similar to today — social and racial reckonings for a society on the cusp of real change,” says Artistic Director Molly Smith. “This story takes a different look at some of the major players of that time and the controversies that surrounded them. Washingtonians will love it because it embodies the heart of this city — the intrigue, the mind games, the high stakes. This is not a docudrama; it’s a journey through the soul and minds of extraordinary people wrestling with giant ideas.”
The cast of Change Agent — all making their Arena Stage debuts — includes Andrea Abello (Soho Rep’s Passage), Regan Linton (Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Much Ado About Nothing), Jeffrey Omura (The Public Theatre’s Hamlet), Kathryn Tkel (Theatre J’s The Wanderers) and Luis Vega (Second Stage Theater’s The Underlying Chris).
CHANGE AGENT is a work of fiction, but it is provocative. And while there are holes in the story and the timing could use a bit of tightening, the play — which uses just five characters to underscore the heft of DC’s intimate connections — is full of juicy what-ifs.
CHANGE AGENT is currently on world premiere in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle at Arena Stage. It runs January 21 through March 6, 2022.