Kings at the Studio Theater is a must-see for every Washingtonian. Written by Alexandria native Sarah Burgess, Kings is a play that uniquely speaks our language – so precisely in fact, it’s almost impossible to imagine how such a slice of truth from inside the beltway translates beyond our borders.
You wouldn’t think a play about legislation addressing a carried-interest tax loophole would be fascinating, but it is. Prickly newly elected congresswoman Sydney Millsap (Nehassaiu deGannes) stomps into DC with a sense of duty and a revulsion for the pay-to-play fundraising system of elected government. A political neophyte, she refuses to play by the rules, which canons are embodied in veteran special interest lobbyists Kate (Kelly McCrann) and Lauren (Laura C. Harris). Millsap’s idealism equally runs her afoul of her own party, represented by her home state Texas cohort in the Senate, veteran Senator John McDowell (Elliott Bales).
The ensemble piece boasts a strong cast, with McCrann as a particular stand out as a lobbyist caught in conflict between the reality of the Washington machine and a call back to her convictions. Under Marti Lyons direction, the palpable tension between the characters is taut and enthralling. But the play’s real protagonist is the system itself, and how the current grind of the political machine eviscerates the ethically pure, leaving our government in the hands of lobbyists and venal politicians. If Burgess leaves us adrift at the end, wondering at her message and lacking resolution, there’s no doubt her dark comedy lacerates the shiny red, white, and blue image of democratic freedom.
Sarah Cubbage’s costumes and Luciana Stecconi’s simple, yet clever, revolving set perfectly evoke the tone of where things actually get done outside the halls of Congress. The rapid fire dialogue is clever, cutting, and current. The characters parry brilliantly, with smart repartee and wicked verbal stilettos, rendering Kings both enlightening and entertaining.
Kings is playing at Studio Theater (1501 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005) through January 6, 2019. Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes, with no intermission. For information or tickets, call the box office at 202.232.7267, or click here.
Photos credit C. Stanley Photography