Review: ‘One Fell Swoop’

Scripter Robert J. Litz projects to 2009, offering a deliciously cynical, if predictable, perusal of Beltway political machinations affecting a controversial Supreme Court confirmation.

Scripter Robert J. Litz projects to 2009, offering a deliciously cynical, if predictable, perusal of Beltway political machinations affecting a controversial Supreme Court confirmation. Helmer Christopher Game, complemented by Joel Daavid’s expressionistic TV monitor-laden set, fluidly guides a talented 15-member ensemble through the self-serving agendas of Litz’s menagerie of D.C. gamers and media hacks. The scripter’s jaded, business-as-usual thematic throughline does not lessen the impact of this colorful perusal of the folks who control so much of American life.

In Litz’s future world, the Democrats rule both the White House and Congress and are attempting to ramrod liberal Judge Richard Barron (Gregory Mortensen) onto the Supreme Court. The action focuses on the forces that callously manipulate the life of youthful constitutional law professor Caitlin Reese, played with a captivating amalgam of fish-out-of-water reticence, political astuteness and understated sensuality by Megan Dolan.

Litz places Reese, who had an affair with the judge when she was his student, in the direct steamroller collision path of two adversarial political henchmen: Judge Barron’s suave, in-control aide, Alex “Mac” McCallister (Charles Pacello) and Clayton Fosse (Max Williams), the agenda-driven hatchet man for ultraconservative Senator Gage (Robert John Brewer). Constantly infiltrating the confirmation war are two conservative TV pundits, hyperactive Ann Coulter-esque Ann Carter (Alexandra Hoover) and the more dignified but sexually ravenous lesbian Rachel Hollings (Julie Weidmann), as well as keen-witted, opportunistic print journalist Amy Brillstein (Amy French).

Litz telegraphs Reese’s eventual fate early in the proceedings, allowing the audience to concentrate more on the gamesmanship of the players, portrayed with noteworthy attention to characterization by the ensemble. Pacello is dead on as the shark-like D.C. professional McCallister, who is a master at attending to details, whether it is bedding Reese to make her more emotionally pliable or obliterating the truth to cover up a bit of judicial impropriety involving Judge Barron’s nephew Billy (Steve Stone). As a dangerous adversary, Williams imbues Fosse with a blood-chilling aura of controlled rage barely concealed by his perennially smiling visage.

Terry Armbruster gives a comically rich portrayal of ambitious low-rung TV news producer-talkshow host wannabe Terry Wells. Also noteworthy is Amy French’s deliciously insidious journalist Amy Brillstein. Pamela Roylance is memorable in her brief portrayal as Judge Barron’s sadly wise, long-suffering wife Alice.

“One Fell Swoop” conjures a less-than-glorious image of our governing officials but projects solid legs to move on to a more ambitious production.

One Fell Swoop

Elephant Space; 70 seats; $20 top


An Elephant Theater Company presentation of a play in two acts by Robert J. Litz. Directed by Christopher Game.


Sets, Joel Daavid; costumes, Danielle Bray; lighting, Kimberly Negrete, Daavid; sound, Christopher Game; stage manager, Shannon Simonds. Opened, Reviewed, July 14. Closes Aug. 18. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.


Caitlin Reese - Megan Dolan Terry Wells - Darryl Armbruster Judge Richard Barron - Gregory Mortensen Alex "Mac" McCallister - Charles Pacello Senator Jeff Tilden - Terrence Flack Clayton Fosse - Max Williams Senator Gage - Robert John Brewer Alice Barron - Pamela Roylance Ann Carver - Alexandra Hoover Rachel Hollings - Julie Weidmann Billy Barron - Steve Stone Amy Brillstein - Amy French Judge Stone - Dan Gilvary Dr. Clark - Matt Sturiale Technical Director - James Pippi
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