George Street Playhouse’s virtual version of politically relevant ‘Conscience’ will reunite cast

conscience mccarthy


Lee Sellars and Harriet Harris in the George Street Playhouse’s March production of “Conscience.”

The last weekend before everything closed down because of the pandemic, March 6-8, I went to four shows: Friday night at Two River Theater in Red Bank, Saturday night at Wellmont Theater in Montclair, Sunday afternoon at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, and Sunday night at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center.

The NBPAC show was “Conscience,” presented by the George Street Playhouse, and I never wrote my review since the show closed, for safety purposes, before I could. But I want to tell you about it now, because George Street Playhouse is presenting a virtual version, Oct. 27-31.

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The play is written by Joe DiPietro (“Memphis,” “The Toxic Avenger,” “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”) and the George Street production featured Tony winner Harriet Harris as the longtime Republican senator from Maine, Margaret Chase Smith. The play climaxes with Smith’s famous 1950 “Declaration of Conscience” Senate speech, condemning McCarthyism.

Harris gave a memorable performance as Smith, the moderate who was ultimately compelled to take a stand, and Lee Sellars effectively evoked Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s gruff charm and slimy cynicism. The virtual version features both of them as well as the two other original cast members, Cathryn Wake and Mark Junek.

DiPietro’s play is an absorbing one, making these historical figures into believable flesh-and-blood characters. And its relevance to current politics is so obvious it hardly even needs to be stated.

Like most New Jersey theater companies, the George Street Playhouse is not currently presenting in-person productions, and has not announced any plans to resume doing to.


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