Obama 44 Reviews

by Jerry Tallmer

Mario Fratti, one of my favorite people on this earth, is one-third journalist, one-third drama critic and six or seven-thirds an astonishingly prolific playwright now in his eighth decade. More

WMNR 88.1 FM – Fine Arts Public Radio
Rosalind Friedman

Sex and politics combine for a romp at the famed La Mama. Obama supporters take note!  

Mario Fratti’s plays are charming frissons with surprise endings. A new delight is entitled Obama 44, A New Thriller. It is a mystery, politically up-to-date and one of the funniest of his many works. In the past few weeks, I have seen plays of two hours or more that say very little. In 75 minutes, Obama 44, directed by Wayne Maugans, entertains and informs, keeping you on your toes to the very last minute.

All the action takes place on a smart three-sectioned set, incorporating a sofa and table, a large bed, and table and chair (Set – Tatsuki Nakamura, Lighting – Paul Bartlett), all in coordinating colors. On the sofa, we meet cool, collected Maja (Maya), the slimly attractive blond, Julia Motyka. She’s having a first “date” with a nice looking man, Bob. Played well by Dennis Ostermaier, he expresses his mistrust of all women. Maja assures him she is always brutally honest. Bob is intrigued by her, but not until he testifies that he is a Democrat, a liberal and supporter of President Obama will she commence an affair with him. She is so proud of the 44th president, she says, “We elected an African-American, showing the world that we are truly democratic.” (What a hoot!)

The second scene in the bedroom involves Maja and Mel, a part Thomas Poarch, who lists in his bio former Peace Corps English teacher in Africa and Cowboy Line Dancer/DJ, invests with laid-back pleasantness. It seems Mel is Bob’s successor, lover #44, and is really in love with Maja. However, when he is called on the carpet by Maja’s wealthy brother, a crisply scary Rob Sedgwick, and agrees to marry Maja, she refuses. She is already on to the next adventure.

I cannot tell you the end – after all this is a mystery. All I can say is Richard Ugino as the detective, who grills his subject at the table, is very professional and does a good job.

I think the Democratic Party should use MARIO FRATTI’S play, Obama 44, as a fund raiser.


The Italian Voice
Maurice Edwards

Mario Fratti’s wonderfully provocative new play, Obama 44, closed much too soon. It was his 93rd opus, if we bunch together the long and short ones which have been performed and published over the last years. Surely an extraordinary record for any playwirght, it’s probably the closest anyone has come to Lope de Vega’s 400 (or was it 800?) plays he dashed off during the Golden Age of Spain. Or Bernard SHaw’s amazing output topped by his “Far Fetched Faables” which he confabulated at the ripe young age of 96. What about Scribe? And who knows how many Sophocles actually wrote, since he lived into his 80’s, when Athens witnessed some of his greatest dramas, but, of course, most of the earlier works have long been lost, with only tantalizing fragments popping up here and there. As to Fratti’s ancestral compatriots, Pirandello and D’Annunzio, though highly prolific, they never approached their younger rival from Aquila and Venezia. Did Goldoni?

The good news is that in Obama 44, his Opus 93, our unquenchable Fratti is a pungent and challenging as ever . (By the way, the “44” in the title refers to Obama’s place as the 44th president of the U.S.A.) Yes, I personally might have liked a little more Obama peppered throughout the goings-on, but the play itself is a remarkable concoction, sparked off by the author reading about some young volunteer Obama campaign worker being mysteriously killed in our dangerous, still very bellum, South. In typical, but also topical style, Fratti proceeds to create out of this meagre evidence, a complicated mystery, with wide social and political implications, worth enough to be taken up by a seemingly modest down-to-earth police detective, though we never learn just who this investigator represents – the local precinct, the FBI, Secret Service? Or possibly works for a hired front? A la Kafka, Fratti drops enigmatic hints here and there. We wonder whether and/or which of the beautiful young heroine’s lovers (she’s exotically called Maja) might have killed her. Was it a crime of passion? Or was it a political pay-off? Was someone in Obama’s entourage threatened? Is Maja taking orders from anyone? And why does she change lovers so often? Does she really believe in love, which she alwasy uses as an argument booster for herself? Or is that a means to an end? Could the Mafia have been involved? Or was her death simply an accident? Indeed, we never do find out for sure. As in life, our dispassionate author leaves it in the poisoned air to figure out, even though the last scene, which turns into a veritable coup de theatre, supposedly answers part of the question. Really?

But en route to the inconclusive denouement, we have witnessed an unusual pre-intercourse sexual sparring game between our beautiful victim and a not too aggressive potential swain, who does become Lover 43. After that rather long, leisurely, but tantalizing prelude, we hear a strange cross examination between a mildly Javert-like prosecuting detective and someone who seems to be Maja’s Lover 44, her last lover before her mysterious demise. Indeed, there are times when the detective seems to be in love with her image, post murder. Things get even more complicated when her surprisingly wealthy, and very uptight, brother enters the scene. Is he a hidden Tea Party advocate? And how strange, in this day and age, that he and his mother (also Maja’s mother) were concerned before her death about her scandalous Bohemian behavior. They presumably wanted her to be well liked and respected, like a good little bourgeois: a little marriage would settle everything. But she rebels against any constraints. We finally get a confession from the last lover that he killed her, but we’re not quite sure he’s telling the truth and could be covering for someone else. And who is that person – or persons? A political posse? Are they being financed by her millionaire brother, who is very adept in dropping money in convenient off-shore bank accounts? Part of a sexual imbroglio?

How does the show look, and how is the staging? La Mama provided a handsome, utilitarian set, around and into and through which the agile, good-looking cast amble and prevaricate. The actors are all adept, not one trying to outdazzle the other. However, the action might have had more bite, and landed some of Mario Fratti’s little bombshells a little more sharply. And the mystery might have seemed more menacing. Perhaps only the strange broher managed to project a needed sense of irony and danger. Otherwise, dear audience, enjoy. I’m sure you’ll want to pursue some of the above leads when you see or read Obama 44. Bravo, Mario Fratti!