nytheatre.com review by Robert Attenweiler
March 2, 2008
Chosen, the new play by the Dysfunctional Theatre Company, currently playing at Under St. Marks Theater as part of the second annual FRIGID New York Festival, is a wonderfully imagined work. Unfortunately, the premise of Chosen is so fun and ripe with possibilities that it makes this particular production seem a little limp when compared to the idea that got it going.
What's the idea? Well, Chosen follows Bernadette (Theresa Unfried), a Hillary Clinton stand-in who, as a young girl, is visited by an angel—or, in this case, Franklin Delano Roosevelt—and told that God has a special plan for her. God's plan includes guiding her as a college radical, into a marriage to a philandering Southern Governor (a move she questions even then), and, eventually, through the ups and downs as the First Lady of the United States. The play also suggests that Bernadette goes on to become Emperor of the World.
Chosen bills itself as part fantasy, part political satire—and it really has created an exceptionally fertile ground for both. Unfried is genuinely magnetic as Bernadette, always balancing her strength with the natural vulnerability of someone who wants to make the world a better place. She is backed by a talented ensemble and Rick Vorndran directs his play (he is also the writer) with admirable speed and fluidity.
But the play also suffers from this same brevity. Clocking in at 60 minutes, Chosen covers roughly 50 years of Bernadette's life (and part of her afterlife). The play is never really given the time to explore all of its fun and interesting ideas. Instead, we get what amounts to a loose, Cliff's Notes-version of Clinton's life. The audience is told what they likely already know, but are not given a clearly new perspective to account for the retelling.
There are some genuinely funny moments, such as when Bernadette puts her infant daughter under a plastic dome so she can't hear her mother's profanity-laced dressing down of an assistant. But, like so many real-life politicians, Chosen ends up promising more than it delivers.