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April 26, 2017
Review: Her Opponent
Photo credit: Justin Rogers / One March Photography.

The most striking thing about Her Opponent is it is a show without characters, acting, or writing.

It is also not a show.

What it is, is a mirror. And an ingenious one at that.

Her Opponent is an exact replica of four segments of each of the three presidential debates of 2016, only with gender reversal of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. To preserve the cadence of speech patterns, the rhythm of the names mimics the originals as Brenda King (Rachel Tuggle Whorton) and Jonathan Gordon (Daryl Embry), with Andy Wagner as the moderator.

Everyone in the cast has studied the words, speech patterns, facial expressions and gestures of their real-life counterparts, and they tell us so before the show commences.

This is not a satire, parody, farce, nor recommendation nor condemnation of what took place at the debates. This is the actual moment replayed, studied from hours of audio and video coverage, without the originals' gender or decades of being in the public eye.

When the 35-minute-long performance ends, the audience has a talkback with co-creator Joe Salvatore, a playwright, director and Clinical Associate Professor of Education Theatre at NYU.

Her Opponent is the brainchild of Maria Guadalupe, a Paris-based economist and Associate Professor in the Economics and Political Science department at INSEAD. She got the idea after watching the first two debates in the autumn of 2016, contacted Salvatore in NYC, and they completely developed and produced this show, which debuted at the Provincetown Playhouse January 28, 2017 -- a mere 8 days after the inauguration and a week after the International Women's March.

The quick execution is surprising, given the amount of study and degree of accuracy that all the actors display. Yet it is necessary, at least for talkback purposes, that this is first performed while the debates are fresh in the audience's minds.

Time will tell, but I feel that the relevancy of Her Opponent will hold the play up well in subsequent years.

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