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Next in Line 

A satire about the everyday rot in the electoral process may seem familiar to San Franciscans

Wednesday, Apr 10 2002
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It's about time somebody wrote a satire of politics in San Francisco. Wandering ballot boxes, shifty voting registrars, and the general toxic presence of a political consultant like Jack Davis give off a stink that deserves not just one dire comedy, but a whole uproar -- yet most of our playwrights have been silent. John Warren approaches the problem with a new play called Next in Line, about (unspecific) political consultants. It shows a young local strategist named Bobby Deans working skillfully for liberal causes in a cramped, messy office that doesn't even have a coffee machine. When he lands a contract to help an underdog politician win a state Assembly seat, his friend and (liberal) colleague Maxwell surprises Bobby by backing the conservative favorite. Bobby's not above Machiavellian schemes of his own, but he does have a few scruples, which the Assembly race tears to shreds. The script could easily be transferred to New York or L.A. -- Warren doesn't dig into local politics with any bloodthirsty verve, which is too bad -- where it could educate audiences just as well about everyday rot in the electoral process. Unfortunately, under Jason Ries' direction, it lacks the energy Warren wants to evoke. Nora El Samahy does strong work as Bobby's assistant, but in general the cast feigns the hustle of a campaign office without quite bringing it to life.

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