COME MAKE THE ACQUAINTANCE OF “THE SECOND MRS. WILSON”
To say that Edith Bolling Wilson was a woman ahead of her time is an understatement. To many she came to be called the First Woman President, long before Hillary Rodham Clinton threw her chapeau in the political arena. For Edith, a lady of determination and clear intelligent viewpoints, became “The Second Mrs. Wilson” and is the fascinating subject of a world premiere play by Joe DiPietro being inaugurated on the main stage of New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre until Sunday, May 31.
President Woodrow Wilson, brought to charismatic life by John Glover, becomes immediately smitten when he meets the lovely and opinionated widow, Edith Galt, portrayed with style and grace by Margaret Colin. A recent widower himself, he falls under her spell, much to the dismay of his executive entourage that includes his press secretary Joe Tumulty (Fred Applegate), his trusted advisor Colonel Edward House (Harry Groenier), his vice president Thomas Marshall (Steve Routman) and even his personal physician Dr. Grayson (Stephen Barker Turner).
Edith, however, knows how to charm. While previously uninterested in politics, her new relationship awakens in her an active pursuit of affairs of state. Woodrow, for his part, seeks her advice and opinions and involves her more and more in the everyday White House concerns. The threat of America’s entrance into World War I, the war to end all wars, leads her to become his personal consultant, sharing state secrets and even accompanying him to Europe.
With astute intuition, Edith changes the role of the First Lady dramatically. Not a social partygoer, she concentrated on more serious matters, discerning the men who were not working to help her husband succeed, like Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (Nick Wyman).
When Woodrow has a stroke, Edith comes into her own, shielding him from the pressing problems of the presidency, by making decisions for him. With great personal resolve and strength, Edith Wilson assumes the burden of the office, working behind the scenes to get Woodrow’s Treaty of Versailles signed to end the war and to create his valuable League of Nations.
Joe DiPietro has fashioned a truly brilliant piece of history, one that shines a spotlight on a unique role of a President and his First Lady. This stellar cast paints a portrait of a time and a place and the people who lived in its drama. Gordon Edelstein has directed a fascinating picture that is sure to engage the audience with its humor and humanity, on a warm and stately set by Alexander Dodge.
For tickets ($25-75), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
At a time when politics were clearly a man’s realm and when the Twenty Fifth Amendment to the Constitution dealing with the succession of the vice president to the office of president due to the disability of the head of state was almost fifty years in the future, Edith Wilson took charge of her husband’s health and of the country’s well-being and steered our ship through a multitude of storms. Come hear why and how from the captain herself.