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Thursday, April 19 News

Players poised to bring tale of political intrigue to Powerhouse Theatre

The idea of bringing a political thriller to life has long been percolating in playwright Jim Gordon's mind, and, come Friday, Feb. 21, area audiences will have a chance to see the story he has brewed up.

"The Governor's Son" will premiere at the Powerhouse Theatre in New Canaan, where the Town Players of New Canaan will present what Gordon calls a murder-mystery within a political power play.

The main character, Richard Meeks, who is played by Frank Speranzo, is a successful politician, who is running for the U.S. Senate after having served a successful six terms as U.S. congressman. Meeks has largely benefited from the protection and advice of his father, who himself was a powerful governor.

"The old man wanted his kid to be a congressman and he was the kind of guy who would resort to anything to make it happen," said Gordon, who lives in Norwalk. "Because of this situation, a murder took place."

It is now 12 years later and Meeks is forced to deal with that situation because of a crusading district attorney -- played by Leighanne Champion -- who is bent on investigating the connection between Meeks' success and the murder.

The political team that surrounds Meeks, including his mother (played by Davina Porter) and an operative known as Brodsky (played by Larry Greeley), has tried to keep Meeks clean all these years and continues to shield him from what is going on "behind-the-scenes."

But, the apple does not fall far from the tree, and Gordon has created a story that reveals that there is more to Richard Meeks than one might think.

"One of the reasons this story is so appealing ... is the relevance," said Tom Butterworth, a New Canaan resident and veteran actor who will be making his directorial debut with the piece. "Everyone is aware of corrupt politicians ... (but this story) offers an insight into how a person could become corrupt and live in that persona. (Meeks) is aware that his family has secrets in the closet, but he never had an incentive to go and look."

Butterworth said Gordon's deft handling of the characters and their relationships give the story depth and further intensify the intrigue as characters' choices are revealed.

Although certain politicians inspired Gordon as he put words to paper, he said Meeks, and the people who surround him, are an amalgamation of multiple candidates and the operatives who surround them. Gordon said he is intrigued by the way so many candidates change while in office, although, in the case of Meeks, his formula stays the same -- follow the prevailing political winds.

"The reason he is advancing ... is because he never takes a stand," Gordon said. "Everybody likes him because he does nothing."

Gordon, who has been writing plays for the past 12 years, said he enjoys writing about the kind of "rough-and-tumble" characters in this play, who have a veneer of respectability, yet are morally challenged when it comes to getting what they want.

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"The tension just builds and builds and builds," he said, adding that with each passing day more and more fingers are pointed and more characters are pushed to the breaking point.

Gordon and Butterworth hope audiences come out for this new work, which is a break from the more classical repertoire that typically graces the Powerhouse stage.

"We all loved the play, and it is beautifully written," Butterworth said.

Christina.henness@scni.com; Twitter: @xtinahennessy

Powerhouse Performing Arts Center, Waveny Park, New Canaan. Friday, Feb. 21-Saturday, March 8. Fridays, Saturdays 8 p.m; Sundays 2:30 p.m. $20; $15 students, seniors. 203-966-7084, www.tpnc.org.