'Walter Cronkite Is Dead'

Take two opinionated women of politically opposite stripes, confine them to an isolated corner of an airport during an endless weather delay, and what do you get?

Take two opinionated women of politically opposite stripes, confine them to an isolated corner of an airport during an endless weather delay, and what do you get? In the facile hands of director-writer Joe Calarco, a charming little play called “Walter Cronkite Is Dead” about the common ground we Americans might discover if we’d stop all the shouting.

Calarco, currently an artistic associate at Signature, is a seasoned director with more limited experience as a playwright (“Shakespeare’s R&J”). Both talents are on display in this piece specifically written for busy D.C.-based actors Nancy Robinette and Sherry L. Edelen. Calarco the writer demonstrates impressive maturity with his lively and insightful dialogue, while as a director, he gets maximum mileage from subtle glances and flares of contempt.

Robinette plays taciturn intellectual Margaret, whose solitude is broken by Edelen’s shrill and babbling Southerner, Patty, who is seeking the vacant seat at her table. That the two middle-aged women won’t hit it off is clear from the outset, but as a rambling and frequently funny conversation unfolds, tempers flare over Margaret’s affection for the Kennedys and other politically charged issues. Yet as deeper personal travails surface over a bottle of wine, each concludes the other is not a monster after all.

Believable? Well, not really, especially Edelen’s overtly caricatured Tennessean, who is hardly conservative America’s best spokesperson.

But so what if today’s real political confrontations aren’t so easily resolved? The play’s sermon against demonizing those with whom we disagree couldn’t be more relevant. And with its disarming approach to the topic, this inexpensive play should have strong appeal for regionals and beyond.

Walter Cronkite Is Dead

Signature Ark Theater, Arlington, Va.; 100 seats; $76 top

Production

A Signature Theater presentation of a play in one act written and directed by Joe Calarco.

Creative

Set, James Kronzer; costumes, Kathleen Geldard; lighting, Chris Lee; sound, Matt Rowe. Opened Nov. 14, 2010. Reviewed Nov. 16. Runs through Dec. 26. Running time: 90 MIN.

Cast

Patty Sherry L. Edelen Margaret Nancy Robinette

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