NY Review: 'Warrior Class'

Second Stage Theatre Uptown at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre

Reviewed by Suzy Evans

July 23, 2012


Photo by Carol Rosegg
Politics is on everyone's mind right now. With the upcoming election, all people can talk about is each candidate's hot-button topics while crossing their fingers for the Nov. 6 outcome. Theater companies, film production companies, and many other arts-based institutions are jumping on the countrywide bandwagon to showcase the best political work they can. Playwright Kenneth Lin takes the focus off the issues and goes behind the scenes in "Warrior Class," investigating a potential political campaign that could be derailed by blackmail.

Chinese-American assemblyman Julius Lee wants to run for Congress. Known as the Republican Obama to his fans, the underdog gained attention when one of his speeches went viral. Party boss Nathan comes on to vet Julius as a candidate and discovers that he has an ex-girlfriend from college, Holly, who holds secrets that could wreck a campaign. Nathan attempts to smooth over any long-harbored bitterness while remaining elliptical about his own involvement in Julius' planned candidacy.

Motive is one of the biggest issues in the play. Lin has mastered the slow reveal in his highly structured scenes, which will no doubt work well in acting classes for years to come. However, "Warrior Class" feels more like a series of sequential puzzle pieces than a complete picture. Even when characters state their rationales outright, the shock isn't there. Tepid objectives water down the beginning scenes. Nathan unaccountably seems lazy and halfhearted in his dealings with Holly and Julius, and though he has the greatest secret, his final revelation fizzles. The play loses steam when the discussion veers to the political agenda; it's more successful in the personal arena, though plot points surrounding an affair, a pregnancy, and a threatened suicide are not sufficiently explored.

Andromache Chalfant uses modern clean lines, evocative of Asian culture, in her convertible sliding-door set. Director Evan Cabnet elicits generally strong work from the actors, though he doesn't seem to have an overall vision for the play. David Rasche bumbles around the stage as "retired" Nathan, and his physicality and speech patterns are impressive. Katharine Powell is at a disadvantage because Holly as written is shallow, though Powell excels in the character's dinner scene with Julius, carefully building tension. Louis Ozawa Changchien struggles to give Julius dimension, not helped by the fact that Lin never shows us the public man, only the private one. At least Changchien makes Julius' intimate interactions as interesting as he can.

Ultimately, thanks to weak characters, Lin's seemingly loaded drama only shoots blanks. "Warrior Class" pats rather than pulverizes.

Presented by Second Stage Theatre Uptown at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, 2162 Broadway, NYC. July 24–Aug. 18. Mon.–Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m. (212) 246-4422 or www.2st.com. Casting by MelCap Casting.
 

 
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