The Originalist has a lot to say about the Constitution, the Supreme Court and our country’s inability to discuss politics and find a middle ground. In this, it is more relevant now that it was when written in 2015. It is also a bit harder to watch now than in 2015.
Edward Gero inhabits the role of Judge Antonin Scalia, and brings him to life with vitality, humor and panache. Scalia loudly believes in ruling from the court on the original intent of the authors of the constitution, not any interpretation. Mr. Gero sells Mr. Scalia’s ideals with forcefulness and self-assurance and deals with liberals with contempt. Like the real Justice Scalia, he invites a liberal into his den, but only one smart enough to engage with him.
Tracy Ifeachor plays Cat, the liberal law clerk that becomes sparring partner, sounding board and, ultimately, friend. Ms. Ifeachor does a great job with the part, challenging the Justice enough to work with him, but not enough to truly offend him. This is not the dramatic stretch it might seem; Justice Scalia did often employ one liberal clerk on his team.
|L-R: Edward Gero and Tracy Ifeachor in THE ORIGINALIST. Photo by Joan Marcus|
In the course of The Originalist, Scalia and Cat banter back and forth, the conservative judge and the liberal clerk. If they don’t always find a middle ground, and they rarely do, at least they are honest enough to listen to each other and understand their viewpoints. Throughout Cat’s year with the Judge, she proves her intellectual value repeatedly.
But there is a problem with The Originalist, and it is that the world has changed in ways that were unexpected. Justice Scalia was often on the wrong side of very close decisions and the play gives him a voice, trying to explain to future audiences what motivated this man and what made him tick. Yet less than one year later Justice Scalia passed away. His replacement was appointed by President Obama, whom Scalia hated, but that man was never confirmed or even interviewed. Rather the seat was stolen and given to another believer in original intent. Throw-away comments that would be funny if history proceeded according to precedence, are now arrows at the heart of our system.
Edward Gero’s irascible Justice Scalia was endearing because he was the last stand of an embittered, privileged group of angry white men. Now that he isn’t the last stand, but perhaps at the forefront of the next few decades, the show isn’t nearly as funny. In trying to find a middle ground, Scalia mocks Cat as lacking the killer instinct which will doom liberals. She notes back that history is on her side. It turns out Justice Scalia was right.
The cast here is fantastic, both Mr. Gero and Miss Ifeachor are brilliant. Brett Mack, in a small role, was so perfectly loathsome I wanted to smack him from his entrance in annoying preppy boots. Author John Strand gives us a wonderful play that strives to make the point that we need to value the opinion of the other side, and Director Molly Smith brings it to life on stage. Unfortunately for the country, they are signing (Opera) to the choir.
The Originalist | Author: John Strand | Director: Molly Smith | Cast: Edward Gero, Tracy Ifeachor, Brett Mack | website