The Truth Will Get You Fired in ‘Kings’ at South Coast Rep

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

“The more things change the more they stay the same.”

Idealists beware if you’re headed to Washington. You won’t be welcome, and you most likely won’t be there for very long. The game is brutal and it’s all insider ball as one up and coming representative finds out when she crosses Senators, corporations and the lobbyists who curry their favors, to pass bills in Congress. There’s nothing real for the American people to hope for in Kings.

Currently directed by Dámaso Rodríguez at South Coast Repertory, playwright Sarah Burgess’s Kings, is an incisive comedy about the world of lobbyists – the resourceful, tenacious people who aren’t afraid to use the system to get whatever they want.  Because in Washington, D.C., who you know determines what you’re worth, and those connections get you paid.

The story follows a no-nonsense, outspoken, Sydney Millsap (Tracey A. Leigh), who wins a seat in Congress and is determined to drain the swamp, starting with attacking a corporate tax loophole. Then she meets Kate (Jules Willcox), a whip-smart lobbyist who gets her clients whatever they want. Kate helps Sydney, against her own best judgement, coming up against powerful lobbyist Lauren (Paige Lindsey White), coincidentally Kate’s ex-lover, to try to unseat the powerful Sen. John McDowell (Richard Doyle) steeped in cronyism. It nearly derails both of their futures entirely.

Cynical to the core Kings reveals who really controls our Congress.  It’s not you, the people.  It’s not even partisan. Your vote may count up front, but no matter who gets elected, the ‘powers that be’ control the money.  And money gets you favors. And favors keep you in office.  As Millsap comes to finally understand, draining the swamp is nearly impossible unless you are a self-funded billionaire and even then it’s a struggle.  Change doesn’t happen.  The idea is just packaged neatly for the public.

Kings is ruthless, direct and exceeding smart as are the actors respectively in this play. There is no attempt to dress up or dress down political pomposity.  The dialogs are crystal clear.  None of these players is exactly unlikable all the time. They each have their human moments in their whirlwind lives that are enmeshed into a relentless balancing act of ‘what to say’ and ‘what to do’,  which is most of the time on the extreme opposite spectrum.  It keeps us absolutely riveted to the ugly, behind-closed-doors intimacies of power.

What we get with Kings ultimately, is the alternate perspective on how each is selling out for survival, and how much some of these players don’t even like or respect themselves for doing so.  It’s just the game.


Starring: Tracey A. Leigh, Jules Wilcox, Paige Lindsey White and John McDowll.

Photo (above) by Debora Robinson/SCR: Tracey A. Leigh and Jules Willcox

(C) Copyright Gia On The Move 2018

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