I’ll start by saying that this is the best play that I’ve seen all year. So many aspects would get 5 out of 5 stars – Edward Gero’s portrayal (and likeness) of Justice Scalia, Jade Wheeler bringing criticizers of Scalia to life with her rapid response, know-it-all yet wet behind the ears and the continuous nonstop wit infused throughout.
In a city where politics is freely discussed at the dinner table, ‘The Originalist’ opens the door to opposing sides in way that makes each side feel both heard and validated.
From the site: “When a bright, liberal, Harvard Law School graduate embarks on a nerve-wracking clerkship with the conservative Justice, she discovers him to be both an infuriating sparring partner and an unexpected mentor. How will their relationship affect one of the most incendiary cases ever to reach the nation’s highest court?”
Scalia was many things to many people. A hero. A champion of foundational and principled causes. A Wildman. An unfair monster against equality. The culmination of white male privilege rearing its ugly head each time he spoke. Mentorship from such a man would cause some to panic and others an excited nervousness. For Cat, it caused both – excitedly.
And so goes the story of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Cat, the clerk. This ride is full of laughs, pain, challenges and eye opening perspective. Their chemistry is perfect and the banter flows fluidly. They will win you over
The Arena Stage gave the world premiere of the Originalist in 2015 – it was extended twice and went on to be produced for the screen by Stage17 and broadcast on PBS. It was also recorded as a radio play by L.A. Theatre Works. I hope The Originalist comes to cities all across America – in this form or another. Again – you won’t be disappointed.
John Strand’s The Originalist plays through July 30 Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. Tickets $41-$101. For tickets, visit arenastage.org. Starring Edward Gero and Jade Wheeler, Directed by Molly Smith. Set, Misha Kachman; costumes, Joseph P. Salasovich; lights, Colin K. Bills; sound design, Eric Shimelonis. About an hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.