Fringe review: 'The Pundit'
By Jane Horwitz
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Feigning expertise when you have none can land you in quicksand, whether you’re puffing up a rsum or playing a know-it-all on cable television. Actor/playwright John Feffer’s “The Pundit,” which has three more Capital Fringe Festival performances at the Goethe-Institut downtown, takes that idea and burnishes it into a Washington-savvy satire. After an hour, however, the piece morphs into a thriller and founders.
A Fringe veteran (“Krapp’s Last PowerPoint,” “The Bird,” “Edible Rex”), Feffer belongs to the punditocracy himself. Having opined as a Korea expert, he now shepherds the work of other wonks as a staffer at the Institute for Policy Studies.
In “The Pundit,” Feffer plays Peter Peters, a foreign policy analyst from a fictional think tank. Peters has a high self-regard and a knack for saying little while emitting torrents of words. He’s far too important to pick up his son (Matthew Ancarrow) at school. He berates his young assistant to the point of being verbally abusive and responds to interviewers’ questions with hollow pedantry.
A tragic fall awaits such a man, and it comes when he riffs ignorantly about a terrorist attack in a part of the world far beyond his ken. Peters shovels it high, then gets a call from the leader (Sean Coe) of the terrorist group in question. His hubris plays right into the group’s hands.
Feffer’s witty but repetitive script could use a red pencil, and the multimedia staging (by Doug Krehbel) needs a brisker pace. Having Feffer always seated and addressing the audience, as if we are the camera lens, the radio mike, the wife (Emily Morrison), the assistant or the terrorist at the other end of his cellphone, gets awfully static. You want him to interact with the cast. As an actor, too, Feffer delivers one-liners with ease, but not the emotion needed when the terrorist threatens him.
“The Pundit” deflates its target with a sharp satiric pin in that first hour. Later, when it’s time to jolt the gut or pierce the heart, its aim is shakier.