In spite of an uber-talented cast that provides mostly stellar performances, Rick Leidenfrost-Wilson’s “The Declaration” ends up as a mediocre production that draws its inspiration from an extremely important topic.
Just the mention of same gender marriage and you’re likely to see some emotion involved. All sides in this debate ardently believe that they are right. A good play on this topic would try to accurately portray both sides of the debate. Instead, this production is obviously focused on only one. It even goes as far to paint the other side as evil and devious.
The way the media is painted as well is a bit cynical.
While the drama itself is at times engaging, colorful and witty, many of the characters are painted too unrealistic, while some are mere plot devices. The end result is a performance that feels like a made for TV movie on the Lifetime Network.
In spite of this, it would be a terrible mistake not to say that the production’s star, Jeff Kozel, wasn’t incredibly solid as senatorial candidate Peter Van Arsdale-Troxell. In several scenes, you’ll be close to tears due to the emotional depth of his performance. It is on the sheer passion he displays that this performance is able to stay above water.
Regardless, several times over the course of the production, Kozel and other cast mates fumbled over lines. An incredibly wordy production with little scenery, these small mistakes stood out. Nevertheless, you’d be hard pressed to find any other off-off Broadway production with a cast as deep as this one.
The key supporting roles of Keithen Hergott and Morgan P. Baker were also solid. However, in the case of Hergott, who plays Kozel’s husband, the age-gap between the two hurts the overall realism that’s needed to pass these two off as a pair. While their ability as actors somewhat masks the problem, the two ultimately don’t pass off well as a couple.
In a play filled with emotional highs and lows, Felice Cohen and Sonya Hamelin were the masters of them. Enthralling the crowd, these two were able to keep the play from dragging and added both small comedic and emotional touches that absolutely added brevity to the performance.
In spite of the way it portrays the side of humanity that doesn’t agree with its cause and its unrealistic view of them, “The Declaration” has an ability to both entertain and inform. For that, it belongs on any stage that will have it.
However, these same elements make it less likely to appear at a larger venue.