Politics is a nasty business. Its sinister entanglements are not confined to smoke-filled back rooms in hideaways scattered here and there within the Capital Beltway. They slink into the fancy steakhouses of Baltimore and the elaborate suburban New York abodes of upwardly mobile, would-be office seekers.
Boca Stage, the renamed Primal Forces theater company, has unleashed a dynamic political powerhouse called Warrior Class that opened this past weekend at the Sol Theater in Boca Raton. It features three dynamic actors who are swept into a monstrous partisan maelstrom where me-first trumps constituents-first in Washington’s game of life.
Penned by award-winning playwright Kenneth Lin, who also wrote for the TV drama, “House of Cards,” this play is compelling, thought-provoking grist for audiences who spend each day of their lives in a world fraught with themes of cancel culture, racial supremacy, life-restrictive pandemic mandates and party leaders with seedy intentions hidden behind masks.
COVID-19 has kept this theatrical Genie bottled up for some 20 months. “We had originally scheduled this play for March 2020, as we were entering an intense election cycle,” said director Genie Croft. “But this play continues to be timely, as past actions of notables are now regular headlines. How these scandals are handled, and the double-dealings that go on behind-the-scenes, is where the real drama of Warrior Class lies.”
From left, Jacqueline Laggy, Paul Wong and Wayne LeGette in Warrior Class, playing through Nov. 21 at the Sol Theater in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio).
This craftily written potboiler places veteran performers Wayne LeGette, Jacqueline Laggy and Paul Wong into a triangle of intrigue. As savvy wheeler-dealer Nathan Berkshire, LeGette portrays a hard-bitten mentor to Julius Lee (Wong), a New York Assemblyman with the heady potential of becoming a candidate for Congress – something the New Yorker seems to relish.
Nathan vows to prep the youthful wannabe by deflecting intrusions from those who would get in his way.
Along comes Laggy as Holly Eames, Julius’ ex-girlfriend from college. The play opens with Nathan and Holly huddled in a tete-a-tete at a Baltimore steakhouse where the veteran political handler hopes to defuse a potential scandal.
As it turns out, the personal situation between Holly and Julius is worse than even Nathan expected. With bitterness and fear, she recounts a series of dire incidents attributed to Julius — stalkings, threats to her and her family, the presence of a gun and hints he’ll commit suicide.
Wayne LeGette and Jacqueline Laggy in Warrior Class, playing through Nov. 21 at the Sol Theater in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio).
The interplay of the Warrior Class cast is not just entertaining, but thought-provoking and solid. Julius ponders whether to let Nathan take the reins of his career or do the necessary reconciliation work with Holly on his own.
It doesn’t take long to realize that Holly has more on her mind than just an apology. She’s got her own agenda and the courage to do it, such that the consequences of Julius refusing to comply could truly mess with his political ambitions.
This show is filled with fist-banging, table-pounding and a good deal of yelling as the players wrangle with a raft of troubles.
Mucking up the situation is the fact that all three have personal woes and tragedies that make an easy reconciliation out of the question. Holly is still anxiety-riddled from college and the still-disturbing death of her parents.
Despite his outwardly jovial demeanor, Julius and his wife are suffering the angst of her recent miscarriage. An emotionless Nathan deadpans that his protégé still has time to have kids before he makes his congressional run.
Even Nathan, who seems to thrive on overwork, admits: “You know, I’ve only spent about two months in the past year at home.” He tells Julius: “My kids think they are civilians, but I am in the warrior class.”
The torment-driven action rivets the audience throughout nearly all the 75-minute performance produced without an intermission. The finale is compelling and formidable for Julius, who finds himself alone and in need of succor at a critical moment. But the show concludes with uncertainty still hanging in the air.
Warrior Class gives each actor the space and lines to shine. LeGette, who previously worked with Director Genie Croft in Tuesdays with Morrie and The Mystery of Love and Sex, portrays Nathan as mature and confident, but he smacks of shysterism and something less than trustworthiness.
Laggy, a familiar face on the regional theater circuit, is innocent and coy as she cathartically describes her relationship with Julius: “He scared the hell out of us. My family. My dorm. We didn’t know what he was going to do. It was the worst time of my entire life.” She soon plays all her cards, revealing an unanticipated seamy side.
Paul Wong in Warrior Class, playing through Nov. 21 at the Sol Theater in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio).