The Hippo


Apr 26, 2019








Jane Paradis Button and Larry Pizza play Bob and Celia Roberts. Courtesy photo.

See Candid Candidate by Donald Tongue

Where: Leddy Center, 38C Ladd’s Lane, Epping
When: Thursday, Jan. 21, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 22, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 24, at 2 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 29, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 31, at 2 p.m.
Admission: $20
Contact:,, 679-2781

Political farce
Londonderry playwright’s Candid Candidate hits Epping

By Kelly Sennott

Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton appears in Londonderry playwright Donald Tongue’s new play, Candid Candidate, hitting the Leddy Center stage next weekend, but fictional news reporters from some local papers — including the Hippo — do.

The media, and the New Hampshire media in particular, plays a big role in Candid Candidate, which Tongue said is a farce about the things that fuddle with campaigns, from scandal to less-than-flattering candidate coverage. He mentioned Howard Dean’s scream after winning the Iowa caucus and the images of Michael Dukakis enjoying a ride on a tank.
“This is definitely a political farce poking fun at modern-day campaigning,” said Tongue, who’s also directing. “It’s about how the media kind of focuses on these silly things. … It makes mountains out of molehills out of certain things, and it can cause campaigns to spin their wheels, trying to do damage control from these moments.”
Tongue has spent the better part of a year working on the piece. It hits the stage about a year after his last play, Scene Changes, made its world premiere, also at the Leddy Center. It did very well, Executive Director Elaine Gatchell said via phone. When Tongue gave her the early, rough script of Candid Candidate this fall, was delighted to see potential in this story, too.
Candid Candidate happens over two acts, three days, following two candidates, Bob Roberts and John McCoy. The play starts with Iowa caucus victory speeches, as the candidates are preparing to head east for the next round in the election season — the New Hampshire primary. All seems to be going well, until an unscripted candid moment leaves them fighting for more than political survival. 
“Something happens that has nothing to do with the campaigns or politics, but it just sort of throws everything into a tailspin,” Tongue said.
Characters are over-the-top, sets are minimal, costumes modern. Most scenes occur in hotel lobbies, but sprinkled throughout are New Hampshire references. (When John McCoy arrives in New Hampshire at the Manchester airport, he says, “It’s nice to be here in the King City.”)
Gatchell didn’t get the final draft of the script until November, but she wasn’t the only one waiting. All the actors had committed to the show last spring, when they agreed to be part of Tongue’s 13-episode Web series introducing the characters and previewing the play. The two- to 10-minute snippets follow the candidates at the beginning of their trail, going door-to-door, making campaign ads, getting carsick in rental cars and kidnapped by hillbillies. Filming began last spring, and Tongue started posting episodes online (accessible at in September. The last ones would hit the Internet just before showtime.
“It gave us a taste. You don’t rehearse long for a Web series. You have the script, you do it a couple times while the camera’s on, but you don’t have that much time to think about what the characters’ motivations are,” said Deirdre Hickok Bridge, who plays candidate wife Judith McCoy.
Other actors include Chris Demers, Larry Pizza, Jane Paradis-Button, Jackie Coffin, Aaron Compagna, Jake Lamontagne and Christina Kostoulakos. They didn’t get the final script, complete with a surprising twist, until just before rehearsals, which began three weeks before Christmas.
“He told us up front, ‘I haven’t finished it yet. This is a play I’m working on, and I think it would be fun to do a Web series.’ I signed on before I had ever read the play. I’d read a couple episodes of the Web series, but that’s it,” Bridge said. “It’s a little scary. You say, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it,’ but you don’t even know where the story goes. It’s a little bit nerve-racking. … In November, we finally got to read the finished script. I had read the first half of it and was dying to know how it ends. There was a lot of anticipation to see where he went with the storyline.”
Bridge had acted in Tongue’s Scene Changes, and another of his plays, called The Truth Will Spring Yuh, which was performed at the New Hampshire Community Theater Association Festival in 2014. She likes Tongue’s meaty female characters and being part of something new.
“It’s fun to be part of a collaborative process. When you’re working with the playwright, things change as you’re going along. And it’s sort of fun to see the transformation,” Bridge said. 
Tongue had a busy fall. He directed Mary Poppins for Kids Coop Theatre, and pressure was on to finish this play in time. Luckily, rehearsals have been going well, and actors have been falling into their characters smoothly. 
“It’s been a very fun rehearsal process,” Tongue said.  

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