Political strategist Harold Carver likes to think of himself as a "legend." A Republican miracle worker and notorious shyster, his tagline is "Victory!"—even in the face of defeat.
Carver, played to oversized perfection by Richard Klautsch in Boise Contemporary Theater's production of Margin of Error, smears everyone around him in "honey" and "shit" but prefers to get as little of either on himself as possible. People are either "data points" or clients represented by color-coded cellphones kept in carry-on luggage by his faithful intern, Daphne Anderson (Veronica Von Tobel). Fogged-in at the Boise Airport and juggling four political campaigns on the brink of disaster, they're also trapped in a lopsided drama between Carver's political animalism and the humanity of the people he has been manipulating his entire professional life.
Written by Eric Coble and directed by BCT Artistic Director Matthew Cameron Clark, the play is a glimpse into the inevitable moment when the pupil must push back against the mentor. Hopelessly outmatched against Carver's personality and worldview, Anderson at first can only intuit the disingenuousness in treating voters like pawns and propping up incompetent politicians with outright trickery. Her growing intolerance of her mentor's cynicism drives the plot but Carver drives the play. His philosophy is too ugly for audiences to identify with, but he's still the most compelling thing on stage.
Margin shows how ingrained cynicism is in the system, and how the only defense against it is moral vigilance. Unfortunately, Coble has written a character loud enough to shout over that message. Up against a combination of deceit, marital problems and legal inquiries (but still flush with optimism and charisma), he raises his fists to God and shouts, "Victory!"
It's also a comedy. From Anderson's duty to manage an absurd number of cellphones—each a direct link to a political battle—to Carver's high-school class ring (he claims to have dropped out of college), the play is full of explosive personalities and humorous details.
Ahead of BCT's April 22 performance of Margin of Error, Clark revealed the 2016-17 play schedule, including rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, A Nighttime Survival Guide, Where Did We Sit on the Bus and The Clean House.