In Mountain Political Action Committee, the new play by local actor-turned-writer Honor Moor, an eclectic party of five in Asheville formulates a group called Mo-PAC (an anagram of the production’s title), lead by Velma Lytle (played by Delina Hensley). The members, each from different backgrounds, are sworn to secrecy. There’s firefighter Olson Kelly (Scott Cameron), social guru Lizzie Crutchfield (Tara Theodossis), Verizon agent Johnson Hendon III (Tim Plaut) and police dispatcher Andrea Caldwell (Cary Nichols). Together, they aim to be the watchdogs of any wrongdoings in the community.
The show runs through Saturday, March 10, at The Magnetic Theatre.
A main goal of this politically charged committee is to make a difference in the lives of hate-crime victims. Suspicion quickly circulates when an outsider becomes aware of Mo-PAC, and Andrea’s wife becomes a target. The group must take it upon themselves to flush out the mole among them.
Michael Lilly, who was last seen in a stellar performance of On Golden Pond at Parkway Playhouse, directs this comedy. There are certainly some chuckles, but there’s more to savor in the few serious moments.
Moor shows passion and promise as a first-time playwright. The play’s greatest strength could lie in finding a common ground between Republican and Democratic viewpoints. The attempt to understand both sides is crucial in a piece, such as this, aiming for change. When the play heads in that direction, it becomes less preachy and is at its best. However, there are far too many references to Asheville, which bottles up the comedy for only those familiar with the area.
If the play was focused to be a clever satire, it could spark a series. Each cast member shows good distinction, a collaborative effort of which Lilly and Moor should be proud.
Hensley makes Velma a brassy, stereotypical Southern woman. Such a choice gives the play a central focus. The outlandishness of the character could easily follow through to potential sequels.
Cameron and Nichols manage to tame the play and, in turn, are the standouts. Their understated performances as real people satisfy. Cameron is perfectly cast as the tall, strapping buck. His character goes through the greatest arc by experiencing a political awakening.
Nichols has the acting chops for drama. The choice not to make her lesbian character a stereotype was thoughtful and wise. When Andrea’s wife is violated by a hate crime, Nichols reflects the skill of a strategic but caring dispatcher. The suspense becomes serious among everyone in the group, but the mystery does not last long enough.
The Magnetic Theatre has long been a supporter of local playwrights. By staging works like Mountain Political Action Committee, it taps into the deeper concerns of our nation. While Republicans risk feeling offended by this piece, Democrats may enjoy its blunt approach.
WHAT: Mountain Political Action Committee
WHERE: The Magnetic Theatre, 375 Depot St., themagnetictheatre.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, March 10. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m. $10-16