Popular politicians are often compared to blank screens - full of charisma, but just vague enough on policy that people of widely varied political opinions can see whatever they want in them. Michael Rohd and Phillip C. Klapperich have taken this concept to provocative and often thrilling places in "Wilson Wants It All," and while it's hardly flawless, it gives plenty of food for thought and experience.
In 2010 an idealistic young Senator and his wife were assassinated, not long before he intended to announce his candidacy for the presidency. Luckily his chief of staff, Wilson (John Henry Roberts) rescued the daughter his wife was about to have, naming her Hope and training her to take up her father's mantle. Thirty years passed, and American political culture devolved, in frighteningly plausible ways. Hope (Rebekah Ward-Hayes) is now 30, and said to be on the verge of announcing her candidacy for her father's seat. But she's chafing against Wilson's obsessive management of her life, and has no idea that her fate is about to intersect with that of Ruth (Leslie Frame), who is the same age and looks remarkably similar.
Rohd, who directed, conceived and co-wrote, and Klapperich, who co-wrote, have created a remarkably coherent and persuasive world. It's easy to imagine us living in this fragmented, gridlocked society, and desperate for something to make it better, whether or not we truly understand what it is. And Rohd staging is exquisite: on Collette Pollard's set, made entirely from projection screens, he blocks his excellent cast in consistently fascinating ways.
Unfortunately, the script doesn't use this excellent setup to the fullest; the dialogue is often unsubtle and some of the plot twists strain believability. By the end there is a distinct sense of being told the same thing over and over. But there's still a lot to be said for a thrillingly staged, cautionary look into our own futures.