"Let's put it this way. In my opinion…"
And her husband says, "Here she goes."
"She" is Dorothea "Polly" Noonan ( played by the terrific Edie Falco), the opinionated motormouth who is the central character in Sharr White's new play, The True. The story is based on New York state's political history; Polly ran the Albany machine as the aide to Erastus Corning, who became mayor of Albany in 1942 and held the office until his death in 1983.
The close relationships among Polly, Corning (Michael McKean), and Polly's husband, Peter (Peter Scolari), led to rumors that the mayor and Polly had had a long affair. Corning's will left his insurance business to Polly's children, cutting out his own family.
But who cares about old scandals featuring people you have never heard of, especially when there are so many to attend to now? A good question, and one never answered by the play. The script is filled with so many names and so many job references and so many antiquated place-specific concerns that finally all the playgoer can focus on is the good acting.
The drama pivots on a central event when, for a few months, the mayor cut Polly out of his life, refusing to talk to or see her. Her sense of betrayal is palpable, especially since it comes after 35 years of devoting herself and her career to him. Mostly we are engaged because Falco's performance gives Polly a strong emotional reality.
But what was the cause of the rift? That they are perceived to be involved in a romance and that would be politically damaging? That this is the end of the Albany machine? That her husband or his wife are aware that their friendship is more than friendship? Each spouse seems to know more than they acknowledge. The True seems to ask what is true, without answering the question.
More to the title's point is that Polly has been "true," loyal, devoted. It is unavoidable that a play about politics, regardless of how irrelevant the context, seems to be about contemporary politics, and White's recreation of this history inevitably interrogates ours, along with the notion, painfully quaint as it now seems, of being "true."