Review: “The President” (Oracle Productions)

Oracle's "The President".  (Photo by Joe Mazza)
Oracle’s “The President”. (Photo by Joe Mazza)

Show:  The President

Company: Oracle Productions

Venue: Oracle Productions

Die Roll: 14

I first became familiar with the work of Ferenc Molnar when I was starring in a production of “The Royal Family”, which is a spoof on the Barrymore family at the height of their success on the American stage.  Molnar did not write that play, nor was he a character in it.  He was off-handedly mentioned, however, as one of the characters was appearing in a new play by a hot new Hungarian playwright.  That reference had me searching to see who was the hot new dramatist from Hungary at that time.  And I came across Ferenc Molnár.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s Molnar’s work was seen all over Broadway and on the silver screen.  His plays were translated successfully and adapted into major musicals, as well.  And yet, most Americans have no idea who he is.  Funny, then, that he really had a spot-on idea of who we were.

Oracle Productions brings forth a new translation (by Morwyn Brebner) of Egy, kettő, három (literally, “One, Two, Three”), which focuses on the president of a major corporation (hence the title).  The play is set in the late 20’s at a time when the economy ruled all, and we’d not yet felt the crash that came after that period of glut.

The plot of the play is simple.  Mr. Norrison (played by John Arthur Lewis) has a ward (played by Michelle M. Oliver).  She secretly weds a communist taxi driver (Travis Delgado).  This marriage creates all sort of problems for Norrison, who is depending on a major investment by the girl’s father.  The father is arriving in town in one hour, which gives Norrison sixty minutes to transform Tony Foot (the taxi driver) into Anton Von Schottenburg, Jr. (a successful capitalist businessman).

Under the direction of Max Truax, the whole play takes on the feel of Pygmalion on speed.  Lewis delivers staccato lines of dialogue which are often giving orders to the long-suffering Bartleby (brought to life by Joan McGrath).

The transformation of Delgado’s character is remarkable.  And sadly, believable.  The rapid acquisition of wealth and status transforms Tony Foot from a man who will uphold his own values into a man who repeats the inculcated values of the elite.

Lewis’s performance is a tour de force, and Delgado’s is right there with him.  There is not a weak link within the rest of the cast.  Seeing a show that fires on all cylinders seems wonderfully apropos for a play that takes place in an automotive company’s top office.

All works out in the nick of time, but one must still wonder and reflect on the fact that one’s morals can so easily be given up in exchange for success.  The play, while funny, and very enjoyable, also makes you think about what we do and why.   This show is very successful in just about every way.

TEN WORD SUMMARY:  Hungarian playwright captures the nonsense of American big business perfectly.

RATING: d20 – “One of the Best”