Tammany Hall immerses you in a Jazz Age election

A new interactive piece immerses you in an election of the jazz age.

Theater review by Adam Feldman

The opening night of Tammany Room was scheduled to coincide with the election of New York mayor in 2021, which is no coincidence. Set across multiple floors of the SoHo Playhouse, this immersive and interactive play also takes place on Election Night: in 1929, when upstart Republican Fiorello H. LaGuardia ran against popular Democratic Mayor Jimmy Walker (the product of the powerful Tammany Hall’s political machine that had dominated local politics for over a century). And as with the 2021 vote, while some pump is attached, you may find yourself walking through it somehow.

A fair amount of walking is indeed involved. Created and directed by Darren Lee Cole and Alexander Wright, the show makes the most of the SoHo Playhouse complex, which is the actual site of a former Tammany Hall outpost and clubhouse: not just the main theater and the Huron Club cabaret downstairs, but various areas upstairs and in the wings. The locations and 12 cast members have been modestly brightened up by set designer Dan Daly and costume designer Grace Jeon, and audiences are invited to observe and occasionally rub shoulders with such figures as gangster Legs Diamond, political big-hitter George W Olvany and showgirls Betty Compton and Marion “Kiki” Roberts.

They are certainly colorful characters, many of whom have been featured in their own Broadway musicals: The Pulitzer Prize-winning hit. Fiorello (1959) and the flops Jimmy (1969) and Diamond Legs (1988). Still, there is a professional quality to Tammany Room that even they cannot overcome. Because the 1929 race result is predestined – historic spoiler alert: Walker won in a landslide – there is no suspense about the result, nor much interest in the ballots that the members of the public must complete. And to the extent that the show delves into the real political issues of the time, it does not go much further than to illustrate, in various ways, that the Tammany network was plagued by corruption, which is the only thing most people already know today. about that. (Walker resigned in disgrace in 1932.)

The caveat in reviewing a show like this, mind you, is that I haven’t seen most of it. After a quick opening streak, which imagines a debate in a boxing ring between the charismatic Walker and the earthy LaGuardia (well played by Martin Dockery and Christopher Romero Wilson respectively), the audience is divided into groups that follow paths and paths. different characters; Sections of the script are played simultaneously throughout the building, and each audience member experiences only part of the complicated whole. Coincidentally, I found myself on a barren path about Tammany’s bribery and self-operation, as well as a musical vignette of a Broadway money laundering show with Compton (Marie Anello) . The gangster angle looks fun, so maybe I should have taken more initiative to find the material I liked the most. To the extent that Tammany Room is a matter of personal choice, maybe I chose wrong.

Tammany Room. SoHo Playhouse (Off Broadway). Created and directed by Darren Lee Cole and Alexander Wright. With the whole cast. Duration: 1h30. No intermission.

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