Play Review: Josiah for President
I saw Josiah for President on the Bird-in-hand stage in Bird-In-Hand, Pennsylvania on July 18th, 2015. The show is a musical about a man named Josiah, who befriends a young politician and ends up as a write-in candidate for president. Throughout the show two ideas really stuck out to me. The idea of honesty and the idea of simplicity. The idea of honesty was most prevalent when Harley and Marsha put out a false rumor about Mark that caused him to quit politics for a while. This acted as a catalyst so that Josiah would meet Mark. Another subtle idea here is the idea of right versus wrong. The idea of not only what is right and wrong for one’s self, but for America as well. The idea of simplicity comes into play when Josiah discusses how he plans to run for president and later on his official presidential plans.
The play begins with reporter Sara Rodriguez giving a news report with the standings for the coming election. Then the scene transitions to Mark Stedman’s office, where he and Carl, his assistant are discussing strategies for the election. Mark begins to question his own reasons for running. The next scene then focuses on Harley Phillips, yet another politician, and his assistants, Marsha and Bart. Bart acts as the comic relief for this show and is quite hilarious all the way through. Marsha mentions to Harley that a scandal about one of his opponents might make them drop out and in turn, make him more likely to win the election. She then comes up with a rumor that Mark Stedman is dating his secretary. Harley, though, is reluctant to do this, knowing full-well that it isn’t honest and the turmoil that it could cause to Mark’s family. The idea of honesty is really prevalent in this scene as Harley and his team go ahead and decide to be the opposite of honest. Then, Mark really questions if he’s the right man to be leading America and questions why he’s running for office. This scene took place in Mark’s office. After that, Sara sung a news report. Then Mark drives his car into a ditch and walks to a farm up the road. He meets Josiah, an amish man, and tells him that he was a politician and has given up on his run for president. He says that he is heading home to see his wife. After some time and seeing Josiah’s old fashioned/simple ways, he decides that Josiah is just what America needs. Josiah refuses to run and says it would go against his amish ways and lifestyle. Josiah goes to speak with the bishop and brings the idea to his wife, Elizabeth’s attention. She mentions that it is ridiculous to think of herself as the first lady and of him as president. He puts the idea to rest and goes to a farmers’ auction. At the farmer’s auction Mark again approaches Josiah with the idea and after some banter back and forth about it, Josiah agrees to run on the condition that Mark be his Vice President. In the next scene, Harley has an interview on Welcome Tonight! He has to read off of his cards because of his nervousness and realizes that it was all because of his dishonesty. Again the idea of honesty was really prevalent. In the next scene, both Mark and Josiah are talking with their loved ones, Cindy and Elizabeth respectively. They sing with them and explain that love is just simple and life should be led simply but with direction. Josiah then tells his wife of his plans and she reminds him that Mark chose him because of who he already was and not to change. The idea of simplicity was shown in this scene. The next scene was Sara Rodriguez giving a news report and update on the standings of the election. Then the next scene is of the election itself. Sara, Marsha, and Karen Ledbetter, who is the other politician running, then sing I wanna be miss America. Then it is revealed in the next scene that Josiah won the presidential election. Harley then expresses how he has changed and would like to be on the cabinet for Josiah. Then Sara delivers more news and Cindy and Elizabeth share with each other what home is to them. In the next scene, Josiah is beginning to deliver his State of the Union address and is shot by StormCloud47. Then there is a funeral scene and Elizabeth sings a prayer to God to have him help her through it. Mark then assumes office as president and the cast sings all together the finale.
All of the actors/actresses did a good job but some were definitely stronger and more seasoned than others. The two strongest singers were definitely Daniel Stargel, who played Mark and Josey Miller, who played Cindy. One thing that I think could have been stronger was the acting of J. Morgan Shaffo, who played Elizabeth. She had a lovely voice but her acting was not the strongest and for the part it could have been an asset to the show to have a stronger actress in the part. One thing that really was an asset to the show was the acting talents and comedic relief of Christopher Mauro, who played Bart. He was hilarious and was very entertaining to watch. The audience definitely had fun watching him and there was never a dull moment. The stage set up constantly changed. There was no wasted space but I believe this show could have, again, benefitted from a larger stage/theatre.
The set was appropriate. In the first scene the stage was totally empty except for Sara Rodriguez and the spotlight on her. This was the case during all of her news reports. When it was an office scene, they used office furniture, such as a desk and chairs and a pencil cup and things like that. There was also a banner that was sort of like a campaign poster that would change depending on who’s office we were in. The farm set up was a simple wooden back drop painted to look like a fence. The simplicity of the set for the farm really helped to show the simplicity of not only their lifestyle but of their farm and what they own and how they act. The lighting was like concert lighting. For the songs, usually it was some sort of color scheme. Most often red and blue. This represented the United States of America as the show was after all, about a presidency. However, lighting also consisted of a spotlight for the Sara Rodriguez news scenes. Sound effects used were the gunshots. The weren’t the best sound effect but they worked. For the small theatre they were in it worked. Other than that there was only the music for the musical, which was very important to the story and without it, some of the points may have been lost. Costumes for the show weren’t extravagant. Josiah wore farm clothes in the first scene we saw him in. Elizabeth wore a simple amish dress, with an apron. Mark wore a suit and tie and dress shoes. Cindy wore a suit jacket. Carl wore a suit and black dress shoes. Harley, again, wore a suit and black dress shoes but a colored tie. All of the men wore different colored ties to differentiate between them. Marsha wore a suit jacket and pants. Bart wore a dress shirt and tie. Karen Ledbetter wore a dress. Sara wore a pencil skirt and a suit jacket.
The audience was attentive to the story. Everyone in the play was very lively and seemed committed to their roles which helped to achieve this. Overall though, the performance was good and was very professional. All of the actors/actresses seemed to remember their lines. Costumes, the set, and lighting/sound really added to the show and helped to get the main messages across. This play has made me realize that performing isn’t about me as an actor, it’s about how I as an actor can help others to portray a theme or message prevalent in the show and to do that I need to be committed to the character. Overall, the show was very entertaining and everyone did a wonderful job.