Power corrupts, it's a truism. On the way, the climb to power corrodes. The soul-selling scramble to possess power can be corrosive -- and corrosion can be way more interesting to watch than corruption. In Dead Metaphor, George F. Walker's new play, the moral relativism and the transparent rationalizations that accompany the climb are played for laughs. And laughter ensues -- to some extent.
In A.C.T.'s world-premiere production, Renee Augesen plays a cynical politician, whose right-wing pandering is the most appealing aspect of Dead Metaphor. Augesen's Helen Denny is a dry-witted, brass-tacks candidate who is comically despicable; she really could care less about her conservative convictions. Augensen's engaging, unabashed villain is the play's juicy magnet, even though the play centers around a war veteran's own moral compass.
Dean Trusk has returned from the Middle East, where he excelled as a sharp-shooter, downing Taliban with expert precision. But back home, with a pregnant wife, he is willing to take any job. Dean, played by George Hampe, is a likeable, boyish Vet. In the first scene, he is being interviewed by Fusco's Oliver Denny, a veterans' affairs social worker and Helen's husband. (She is concerned that "social worker" equals liberal in the public's eyes.)
Dean, with his snap-on tie, is a military assassin, but he's mainly a kid. He's a good killer, but he thinks he would like to write jokes for greeting cards. Oliver gets him a job as a gofer for his wife's campaign and Helen is more than happy to have a war hero to show off.