In the debate scenes, the actors speak the words that Vidal and Buckley actually spoke. Outside the debates, they confer with their advisers about how to beat the other man, and – vain in a way that only television can make people – they protest to the network that the other man is getting more of the camera.
Theatre is not supposed to work this way. Yet this is one of the most compelling pieces of theatre you will ever see.
There are just two characters. He is 17, all noisy, hearty masculinity. She is 16, all gawky, precious self-loathing: “I’m just a caterpillar. One day I’ll be a butterfly, if I don’t get stamped on first.” They meet, they fall in love, they hear the Fuehrer’s call to populate the world with Aryan babies, and they set to work to do his bidding.