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Gore Vidal's 'The Best Man': What did critics think?

April 2, 2012 |  8:00 am

Gore Vidal's "The Best Man"

Broadway is marking the presidential election year with a revival of Gore Vidal's 1960 play "The Best Man," a political comedy about two candidates duking it out during a presidential convention.

"The Best Man" features perhaps the starriest cast currently on Broadway, including James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Eric McCormack, Candice Bergen, Michael McKean and Angela Lansbury.

The ensemble also includes Dakin Matthews, a regular of the Los Angeles theater scene.

Vidal's play debuted on Broadway in 1960 -- Melvyn Douglas won a Tony Award for his performance -- and was most recently revived in 2000. The current production, at the Gerard Schoenfeld Theatre, features Larroquette and McCormack as the two presidential candidates who go head to head during a nominating convention in Philadelphia.

Vidal, 86, is the author of several plays, but remains best known for his novels, non-fiction books and essays.

How did New York critics react to the new revival?

The New York Times' Charles Isherwood called the production "sluggish," adding that it feels like "a particularly fractious and constipated evening at a political convention." The play "more often strikes postures that feel antiquated even in their idealism."

David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter described the revival as "shrewdly cast, with a starry ensemble that lands every laugh while bringing sly shadings to their characters." Vidal's play "is no ageless classic" but "it's a vivid snapshot of American political life a half-century ago that shows both how much and how little has changed."

The New York Post's Elisabeth Vincentelli wrote that the production is "overly decorous" and that the performances by the female members of the cast are the best part of the evening. The scenes between Larroquette and McCormack lack a sense of "heartfelt anger in their battle — and this sucks out a lot of the play's energy."

Elysa Gardner of USA Today wrote that the play offers some "prescient observations about the increasingly tricky business of choosing a leader of the free world." Among the cast, Jones delivers the "biggest, warmest laughs" of the evening.

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-- David Ng

Photo: Eric McCormack, Kerry Butler, Corey Brill and James Earl Jones in a scene from Gore Vidal's "The Best Man," at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York. Credit: Joan Marcus / Associated Press

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