It's a war of words between two great American politicos — one a charismatic newcomer, the other a savvy Washington veteran — squaring off over racial equality, states' rights, media manipulation and other hot topics.
No, it’s not Barack Obama and John McCain, but Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in Norman Corwin’s “The Rivalry.” The play, which opened on Broadway in 1959, revolves around a series of debates during the race for an Illinois seat in the U.S. Senate in 1858. And instead of a university stage, the two candidates will face off at the Skirball Cultural Center as part of L.A. Theatre Works’ latest offering.
Lincoln, the upstart, will be played by David Strathairn, who, it just so happens, narrated the biographical video that introduced Obama at last summer’s Democratic convention. Douglas, one of the most powerful senators of his time, will be played by Paul Giamatti, who last week picked up an Emmy for portraying another political heavyweight, President John Adams.
“Rivalry” director Eric Simonson won an Oscar for his 2006 documentary about the 98-year-old Corwin, one of America's most versatile men of letters. Corwin has written for newspapers, newscasts, film, TV, stage — and, of course, radio. That ties nicely into Theatre Works' mission of recording contemporary and classic plays for broadcast and CD through radio-style readings.
And if one debate just isn't enough for you? On Oct. 15, opening night, you can enjoy a double bill by buying tickets for a 6 p.m. dinner and big-screen viewing of the third scheduled debate between Obama and McCain; Lincoln and Douglas will take the stage at 8.
Photo credit: University of Chicago via Lincoln/Net