Flores, Bucher on Vidal’s ‘Best Man’
Just in time for Election Day, Bay View’s Boulevard Theatre is producing a reading of Gore Vidal’s politically charged dramatic comedy The Best Man. David Flores and Mark Bucher direct.
How would you describe Gore Vidal?
DF: Egotistical patrician, caustic man of letters, confident, sexy and brilliant. He called himself a “Gentleman Bitch.” That pretty much covers it. Maybe a politically motivated Oscar Wilde—on steroids?
MB: A throwback and a genuine article—unlike anyone on the scene today. He risked seeming snobbish—which he wasn't—because he had no patience for greed and stupidity. He did not bear fools well, but he genuinely cared about America. Sadly, he’s passed on to that great literary cocktail party in the sky.
Can art and politics mix?
MB: I do not believe that art and politics mix—like, at all. However, there is an art to being political, and the arts have a lot of politics.
The Best Man debuted on Broadway in 1960. It got six Tony nominations and became a film. How is it relevant today?
MB: It was also revived in 2000 and just enjoyed another revival with Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and many others. It has a solid narrative, witty and revealing dialogue, and fascinating, well-drawn characters. It is vital, pertinent and alive. Politics serve as a dark mirror for the Machiavellian desires within mankind, which usually makes for crackling good theater.
DF: Political machines are controlled by a few powerful people, despite all the grassroots talk. Image is everything. Careers are destroyed by closeted skeletons or a few revealing words. So a lot remains the same.
What might Gore say about this year’s election?
DF: Good hair is commendable, but neither necessary nor sufficient for the presidency. Do your research. Also: When in doubt, vote Democrat.
Why should people come?
DF: The Best Man is smart, timely, eye-opening live theater.
MB: Plus, patrons can see great local actors—nobody schlepped in from either coast—and tickets are extremely affordable—not $65, like at other places. And all funds help keep the Boulevard's doors open. Vote for creative democracy with your attendance. It's your civic duty!
Ronald Reagan auditioned for the lead in the play's original run. Ironically, Vidal did not think he could play a credible president. That’s not really a question, I guess…
DF: Reveals a fundamental truth: Candidates audition for voters. Too often, though, voters choose based on presentations and monologues, instead of looking at résumés and checking references.
MB: Gore Vidal was an astute businessman. Reagan would have sold a lot of tickets. So clearly Vidal cared more about the art than the "politics" of the box office. That's reason enough to respect him, and reason enough to suspect that he, himself, was "the best man."
The Best Man runs 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, at the Boulevard Theatre, 2252 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. For more information, call 414-744-5757.