The City of Conversation OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Stephanie Berger
  • The City of Conversation
  • NY TIMES

  • DAILY NEWS

  • VULTURE

  • TM

  • AP

Opening Night:
May 5, 2014
Closing:
July 26, 2014

Theater: Mitzi E. Newhouse / 150 West 65th Street, New York, NY, 10023

Synopsis: 

In 1979, Washington D.C. was a place where people actually talked to each other...where adversaries fought it out on the Senate floor and then smoothed it out over drinks and hors d'oeuvres. But it was all about to change. In this play spanning 30 years and six presidential administrations, five-time Tony® nominee Jan Maxwell plays savvy and elegant Hester Ferris, the doyenne of Georgetown dinner parties whose influence in liberal politics is legendary. But when her beloved son suddenly turns up with an ambitious Reaganite girlfriend and a shocking new conservative world view, Hester must choose between preserving her family and defending the causes she's spent her whole life fighting for.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The City of Conversation

    A House, and Family, Divided ‘City of Conversation’ Charts a Sea Change in Washington

    Charles Isherwood

    May 5, 2014: Hester Ferris, the social lioness played by the marvelous Jan Maxwell in the terrific new play The City of Conversation, by Anthony Giardina, knows a fellow feline when she sees one. When the pert young woman who has arrived in Hester’s plush Georgetown living room asks innocuously if she can observe as Hester prepares for the power-player dinner party she is hosting that evening, Hester turns on her a glare both amused and assessing. In a tone that makes clear that she has done an instant X-ray and discerned an ambitious young operator beneath the benign exterior, Hester quips, “I think I saw that movie.” When this meets a blank stare, she clarifies: “The young faux-naïf making up to the aging star. It’s called All About Eve.” Although its setting is the theater of politics as opposed to Broadway, Mr. Giardina’s juicy play, which opened on Monday night at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater, shares some of that movie’s most appealing qualities. Smart, literate and funny — and directed with silken assurance by Doug Hughes — it charts the rise of the polarized politics of our day through the microcosm of one woman’s experience.

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF The City of Conversation

    ‘The City of Conversation,’ theater review

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    May 5, 2014: Politics and personal lives are inextricably — and wrenchingly — tangled in the topical and fast-moving drama The City of Conversation, premiering at Lincoln Center. Anthony Giardina’s window to the changing landscape of Washington, D.C., movers and shakers is Hester Ferris (played with smarts and passion by Jan Maxwell), a die-hard liberal hostess-with-the-mostest. The play unfolds over three decades, from the Carter years to the Obama inauguration, in the airy Georgetown townhouse Hester shares with her equally opinionated but quieter widowed sister Jean (Beth Dixon). The home is Hester’s arena for entertaining — and for championing left-leaning beliefs. She meets her match when her son Colin (a dynamic Michael Simpson), returns from the London School of Economics with his girlfriend Anna (Kristen Bush). Anna is pretty, blond, and like Colin, conservative. But unlike him she’s ambitious on an All About Eve scale. Anna uses the visit to snag a job interview and to alienate Hester.

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  • VULTURE REVIEW OF The City of Conversation

    Theater Review: The Chattering Classes Chatter in The City of Conversation

    Jesse Green

    May 5, 2014: “Dinner, you have to understand, is always about something,” says the son of a Washington hostess, explaining the local power rituals to his naïve, if ambitious, girlfriend. At his mother’s glamorous evenings, he points out, there’s a professed agenda involving entertainment and also, beneath it, a profound one involving argument. But for Hester Ferris, a Pamela Harriman-like Democratic doyenne whom we follow over the course of 30 years, the gap between the professed and the profound is very slim: Argument is entertainment. Others may feel differently. Like Hester’s dinners, Anthony Giardina’s perplexing new melodrama, The City of Conversation, is about something: the destruction of political comity that resulted (the play suggests) from the barbarian invasion of the Reaganauts in 1980. Unfortunately this argument is planted in an entertainment that can’t support it.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF The City of Conversation

    The City of Conversation

    Zachary Stewart

    May 6, 2014: Politics get uncomfortably personal in Anthony Giardina's thrilling new tale of Washington intrigue, The City of Conversation, now making its world premiere at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. OK, so that PBS-documentary title doesn't exactly scream "nonstop thrills," but anyone who has ever encountered a political disagreement with a family member (that's to say, most Americans) will find it hard to disengage from this hard-hitting family drama. Giardina offers a fascinating vision of where our country has been, where we are, and where we might be headed. Hint: It doesn't look that different from the past. According to Giardina, things weren't so personal just a half century ago: There was a time when policy was decided over Cognac and cigars at fancy Georgetown dinner parties. Democrats rubbed elbows with Republicans and while they had their differences, there was a general consensus toward liberalism and the expansion of the state. Hester Ferris (Jan Maxwell) is a pillar of this world. She's the wife of Senator Chandler Harris (Kevin O'Rourke). Both are staunch Kennedy Democrats, willing to break out the nice China and good Scotch to win a vote for the team.

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  • ASSOCIATED PRESS REVIEW OF The City of Conversation

    Review: 'City of Conversation' Sharp, Intelligent

    Jennifer Farrar

    May 6, 2014: This will sound like a fairy tale, but there was a time in the mid-20th century when politics in Washington, D.C., were conducted with some civility. No matter what disagreements occurred in committee meetings or Congressional debates, political adversaries could still gather for social occasions, chatting together and perhaps even nudging deals forward a little. Playwright Anthony Giardina explores this fabled time in his new play The City of Conversation, in a sharp, intelligent production directed by Doug Hughes that opened Monday night at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Using the experiences of one politically-involved Georgetown family over 30 years, Giardina depicts the sharp divide over social issues that hardened America into two rigid political camps. His compelling characters intensely discuss complex political ideals while remaining believable as people during their pitched family battles.

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The City of Conversation Review REVIEWS

Opening Night:
Closing:
Open Ended

Theater:

Synopsis: 

Politics get uncomfortably personal in Anthony Giardina's thrilling new tale of Washington intrigue, The City of Conversation, now making its world premiere at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. OK, so that PBS-documentary title doesn't exactly scream "nonstop thrills," but anyone who has ever encountered a political disagreement with a family member (that's to say, most Americans) will find it hard to disengage from this hard-hitting family drama. Giardina offers a fascinating vision of where our country has been, where we are, and where we might be headed. Hint: It doesn't look that different from the past. According to Giardina, things weren't so personal just a half century ago: There was a time when policy was decided over Cognac and cigars at fancy Georgetown dinner parties. Democrats rubbed elbows with Republicans and while they had their differences, there was a general consensus toward liberalism and the expansion of the state. Hester Ferris (Jan Maxwell) is a pillar of this world. She's the wife of Senator Chandler Harris (Kevin O'Rourke). Both are staunch Kennedy Democrats, willing to break out the nice China and good Scotch to win a vote for the team.

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