Scratch the surface of a politician and chances are you will find scandal or at least dirty laundry that will render him unelectable for higher office. That is the cynical premise of Kenneth Lin’s taut, tight 80-minute civics lesson, Warrior Class, now receiving its area premiere at Boca Stage (formerly Primal Forces).
The play’s battlefield ricochets between a Baltimore steakhouse and a New York City apartment, populated by a triad of characters. There is Julius Lee (Paul Wong), a Chinese-American assemblyman, itching to run for Congress. He is being vetted by Nathan Berkshire (Wayne LeGette), an old-school pol charged with making sure there are no skeletons in the seemingly squeaky-clean Lee’s closet.
And that is where Holly Eames (Jacqueline Laggy), a college girlfriend of Lee’s, comes in. Nathan meets her at the steakhouse, intent on getting her to sign a non-disclosure agreement about her former relationship with Lee. But the more he pushes, she pushes back. It seems that Lee turned stalker as she broke up with him –- albeit decades ago –- and now the price for her silence is a government job for her husband, even if he has been unfaithful to her.
That, of course, is just the beginning of the machinations and double-dealing that motor the plot of Warrior Class. It would hardly be a spoiler to divulge what seems obvious from the start –- that these three are playing a war game for which there are no winners. Still, while events require a few leaps of faith on the audience’s part, Lin writes authentic-sounding dialogue from the trenches and he has an involving way with his whipsawing narrative.
Genie Croft, the company’s resident director, handles the series of two-character scenes effectively, building up to a climactic confrontation between Holly and Julius. For my taste, the melodramatic final scene is overplayed by Wong, but not enough to damage the evening’s cumulative effect.
Wong’s Julius has the longest character arc, from party darling following a speech that had him dubbed “the Republican Obama” to an abrupt career halt. Wong sells it persuasively, but he is upstaged by LeGette’s Nathan, who can go from oily charm to pure venality faster than a Tesla goes from zero to 60. And Laggy, the company’s go-to female lead, demonstrates why as she nicely underplays Holly’s unexpected savvy.
Dustin Hamilton provides the two side-by-side sets. They, like the play, are a bit more conventional than we are used to seeing from this company, but while the production was stalled over a year and a half by COVID, Warrior Class seems awfully topical today.
WARRIOR CLASS, Boca Stage at Sol Theatre, 3333 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Through Sunday, Nov. 21. $40-$50. 561-447-8829.