It has become my annual rite of July to attend the latest John Feffer show at the Capital Fringe Festival. This is the third year in a row for me and this year’s show “The Politician” is an expansion and extension of last year’s excellent “The Pundit”. The first act of the “Politician” re-visits a tightened up version of “The Pundit”. The show centers around a foreign policy pundit named Peter Peters who is set to do some television and radio interviews about North Korea when he ends up on air and they ask him to talk about a terrorist attack in the country of Khazaria that has just happened and about their leader Ruslan X. On the spot Peters starts spouting generic sound bites that could be about any country, anywhere, any time and starts making up information about Ruslan X. Between interviews Peters is on the phone juggling his home life, such as who is going to pick up his son from school, trying to advance his career by getting in touch with Henry Kissinger about being on the short list for Assistant Undersecretary of State, and trying to figure out where in the world Khazaria actually is. Thrust into this mix was a phone call from Ruslan X, who got his phone number from his inept assistant who thought the accented man on the other end of the phone was Henry Kissinger. Peters and Ruslan X play a game of cat and mouse over the first act of the play with promises of no terrorist attacks if Peters just goes on the air supporting Ruslan X’s cause. All the while Peters is taking calls from his wife and child, still trying to get in touch with Henry Kissinger, and actually learning about Khazaria. As the first act progresses Ruslan X’s threats begin to hit closer and closer to home for Peters. The first act of “The Politician” ends where “The Pundit” last year ended, with a cliffhanger as to what actually happened in the final moment as the lights went down. The second act of “The Politician” answers that cliffhanger and fast forward’s four years later where Peters is now entrenched at the State Department, but still looking to advance his career and left juggling his turbulent home life. Only Ruslan X has re-entered his life and once again put Peters emotional and physical state at stake. Yes, this all may seem rather vague, but any greater detail will ruin that final moments of the first act and the play, both of which are well worth experiencing on your own.
Feffer has constructed an immensely interesting character in Peters, who we rarely see anywhere but sitting in a chair and talking on a phone at the center of the stage. Just through his interactions with his wife, child, Ruslan X, a colleague, his assistant and various interviewers you get a character who is highly driven that is prone to stepping all over those around him for his personal drive. Much like “The Pundit”, “The Politician” ends with an abrupt fade to black, but this time without quite the mystery as to what happened. Although, I must admit, I wouldn’t mind if there had been a third act, or at least an epilogue, to see where Peters goes from that closing moment of “The Politician”. Was that final moment going to make Peters re-evaluate who he was and what he wanted out of life, or was this a person whose ambitions were going to keep driving him forward no matter the consequences.