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Mike Dinko makes part of Sheldon Marcus in ‘The Best Man’ look easy


best-man-59sOkay, imagine you have some dirt on a candidate who is running for President of the United States. So you contact his opponent’s campaign and they induce you to go public with the information, but suddenly, it’s you and your past that’s on trial in the court of public opinion. No, I’m not talking about the nine women who allege they were kissed and/or groped without consent by Republican best-man-60spresidential nominee Don Trump. I’m talking about Sheldon Marcus in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, which is on stage at The Lab through October 29.

Let me set the stage.

A former president by the name of Art Hockstader is his party’s de facto leader. A philosophical statesman by the name of William Russell is vying for the party’s nomination for President of the best-man-63sUnited States. He is opposed by a senator named Joe Cantwell. Cantwell has dug up some dirt about Russell’s mental instability, and threatens to release a psychiatric report detailing Russell’s old nervous breakdown and suicidal thoughts to the delegates unless Russell withdraws his name and releases his delegates to him. But Russell’s campaign manager, Dick Jensen, has dug up some dirt of his own on Cantwell in the form of a weasel named Sheldon Marcus who claims he has proof best-man-76sthat Cantwell was engaged in homosexual activities in the Army while stationed in the lonely Aleutian Islands. But Russell is conflicted. He feels that the best man for the job of president should be the one who is strongest on the issues and is repulsed by the idea of using dirty tactics to gain advantage over his adversary.

Mike Dinko plays Marcus, an outsider to the political process who is brought to the convention to best-man-77sdeliver the story of Senator Cantwell’s gay past. Cantwell insists on talking to his accuser, and William Russell obliges Cantwell’s request. And Cantwell succeeds in convincing Russell that the allegations are pay back by a slime he wronged back when they’d both served in the Army, nothing more. Dinko’s Sheldon Marcus is star struck, and eager to impress not only Russell and his campaign manager, but former President Art Hockstader. best-man-97sBut he is also shifty, dim and, most of all, a coward, and Cantwell throws him completely off balance when he counters Marcus’ unsubstantiated accusations by claiming he was undercover, working for the Adjutant General’s office to identify and root out the homosexual element in the corps stationed in the Aleutians.

This is yet another production in which Dinko turns in a superb performance. His handling of the best-man-98srole leaves open for the audience the question of Sheldon Marcus’ actual motivations. Is it merely revenge for some wrong (we’re never told what) he suffered in the Army at Joe Cantwell’s hands? Or is it because he’s a no-account, inconsequential little man who is suddenly thrust into the center of political controversy, determined to capitalize on his 15 minutes of fame? Is there some part – any part – of Marcus that is motivated by the sincere belief that Joe Cantwell would be bad for the country and must be stopped by any means? But whatever his true best-man-99smotivations might be, Sheldon Marcus clearly lacks the courage of his convictions, and wilts like two-week old pansies in the face of Cantwell’s feined or actual indignation.

Dinko gives the kind of performance that looks easy but, when analyzed, proves masterful and evinces a fundamental understanding of his character, if not anyone caught up in the vice of best-man-99s2down-and-dirty political warfare. Who could have guessed that Gore Vidal could have predicted in 1957 the role that sexual impropriety and innuendo would play in presidential politics (think not only Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, but John Edwards, New Gingrich, Gary Hart and Ted Kennedy, not to mention a legion of Congressmen and Senators)?

It’s difficult to shine in a small role that is dominated by strong actors in outstanding roles, but Dinko soars (or slithers) nonetheless. It’s hard dinko-and-bryant-01to imagine that a scant 18 or so months ago, Mike was front-of-house manager, but since then, his skills and talent as an actor have continued to improve by leaps and bounds. He was last seen on The Lab stage as the surly French waiter Claude in An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf, where he longed for his young male trainee even though married (unhappily) to the restaurant’s beautiful Jackie-O wannabe, played by Marta Sand. Before that, Mike turned in a strong performances as Dasher in The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, Theo dinko-and-sand-02Maske in Steve Martin’s The Underpants, and as Mr. Kraler in The Diary of Anne Frank.

Local audiences can look forward to more good performances from this evolving but already accomplished new actor.

Posted October 17, 2016.


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