If a dream deferred dries up like a raisin in the sun, what happens to a dream fulfilled, but at the expense of one’s own principles? Office of the Speaker delivers a soul-wrenching exploration of a young woman’s decision to put her writing talents to work for a man who stands for all she opposes: The Speaker of the House of Representatives.
First things first: Ariana Almajan steals the show as Abigail, the protagonist adjunct writing professor the Speaker seeks to lure into writing for him. Almajan delivers a mesmerizing performance with her ability to force the audience to both feel her struggles and agonize with her throughout her journey.
Abigail is eking out a living teaching at multiple local colleges, is scrimping every dollar she can to save for in vitro fertilization treatment in a race against her biological clock. An intelligent progressive single lesbian, Abigail wants to have a child, and the Speaker offers her the chance to earn the needed cash more quickly by writing speeches and material for the Republican leader of the House.
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Ron Lake plays the Speaker as a conservative from a pre-Trump, pre-Tea Party era who stood by his values but was willing to engage in debate and dialogue with Abigail. While often on the losing end of witty repartee with Abigail, the Speaker is no cardboard-cutout punchline. Lake captures the complexity of the character ensuring that while he may not be the hero, neither is he a comic-book style villain.
Alejandro Ruiz, who plays Abigail’s roommate, Henry, deftly embraces the role of Abigail’s Jiminy Cricket, attempting to prick her conscience by reminding her that the Speaker fights every day against things they believe in, from issues like slashing entitlements to LGBTQ equality.
Office of the Speaker closes July 25, 2019. Details and tickets
There are times when the show veers close to mirroring an Aaron Sorkin-esque feel-good West Wing episode, yet fortunately never goes there. Instead, just when it might turn into a feel-good campy trope about how political opposites need to just listen to each other more, the show takes a turn, remaining true to its message about both the power of words and consequences for actions.
Playwright Nicole Cox makes excellent use of Abigail’s profession, delighting the audience with innovative wordplay and linguistic flourishes that flowed effortlessly throughout the show. For the political junkies out there, the Speaker in the show has striking similarities to former Speaker Paul Ryan – both are from Wisconsin, both obsessively work out, and additional tidbits from Ryan’s life are used to further the plot.
Office of the Speaker pulls no punches in its honest exploration of issues like hypocrisy, principles, and both foreseen and unforeseen consequences for the decisions we make day by day. The blunt honesty is enough to make the audience feel self-reflectively uncomfortable at times, a mark of successful writing and acting.