Art imitates life in the politically themed “Tea Party,” the new show by playwrights and couple John Gibson and Anthony Morris, known for their long running play “Peachtree Battle.”
“Tea Party” is a political satire where the lives of two strangers collide. Preston Miller (Truman Griffin) is a political newcomer from Connecticut who simply wants to make the world a better place. Clarissa Cannon (Tonglia Davis), the wife of Mississippi congressman Thurgood Cannon (Patrick A. Jackson), is dead set on getting into the White House.
In an attempt to appear more white to Tea Party folks, the African-American Cannons hire Preston, but only to re-do their image. Preston thinks he has been hired on merit, unaware of the real motivation.
“Tea Party” is a play Gibson and Morris have been working on for more than year. The couple had to re-write the play when Herman Cain came to prominence and become a viable GOP force.
“We didn’t expect that, but when he cracked double digits in the polls we knew we had to,” says Gibson.
They have incorporated all sorts of political figures into the mix – the Cannons, for instance, have offstage meetings with Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. In typical fashion, the playwrights are known to add big news of the day into the evening’s performance.
“If it’s current, we talk about it,” Gibson says.
A scandal ensues when the Cannon’s son Zeke (Richard Allen Lee) turns out to be gay. According to Gibson, he is a non-stereotypical character, a Heisman-nominated running back whose sexual orientation is known to none of his family. Yet when a sex tape surfaces, and the family is blackmailed, his secret bubbles to the surface.
“Clarissa doesn’t care that her son is gay – what she cares about are the poll numbers,” says Gibson. His father, though, has a harder time accepting it.
This is the first play Gibson and Morris have penned that centers around an African-American family.
“Peachtree Battle’ is about a family and so is this,” he says. “We all want the same things – we want a family and we want what is best for our children. But we’ve found that people love watching messed up families.”
The playwrights address a lot of issues in the play but do it through laughs.
“We handle the race issue through comedy,” Gibson says. “Preston thinks he knows what it means to be black, but he doesn’t. He only knows one person.”
Gibson feels this is one of their strongest plays and one of the best ensembles he has ever put together. Yet he admits that he and Gibson have only one goal in their writing.
“We don’t do art – we want to entertain,” he says.