Feb 14, 2018
REVIEW by Malena Eljumaily
Thinking outside the box once again, Cloverdale Performing Arts Center opens their 2018 season with David Mamet’s November, in February. But the timing couldn’t be better. With everything going on in the real White House these days, it’s fun to compare that with Mamet’s vision of a desperate man’s last-ditch effort to hold on to power even when all hope is gone.
That man is Charles H.P. Smith (Robert Bauer), whose term as U.S. President is about to end because everybody hates him and therefore he can’t raise enough money to convince people to love him, and more importantly, vote for him, again. With the election looming and the ability to place television adds in only a few inconsequential markets, Smith and his faithful minion, Archer (Dan Tatch) scurry around the Oval Office in a frenetic attempt to invent a scheme that will produce the needed millions.
Without giving too much away, I’ll say that they do come up with an ever-changing plan that involves presidential pardoning powers, and also pulls in a pair of turkeys, an Indian casino and a Chinese amulet. There’s so much packed into this play, it’s impossible to describe it all.
Under the direction of Yave Guzman, the action moves at a rapid-fire clip. Phone calls come in and go out at a pace that reminded me of the entrances and exits in a French farce. Smith and Archer have their hands full just managing the phones, then also have to deal with: a reluctant speechwriter (Jude Gibson), a determined turkey lady (Dee Dee Robins), and later a crazed Indian chief (Robert A. Rodriguez).
In President Smith, Mamet has created a character whose mind never stops working. He is equal parts needy and bombastic. Robert Bauer’s booming voice and petty whinging perfectly express both sides of him. Bauer deserves an endurance medal, as Smith rarely stops talking and is constantly in motion for the whole of the play.
All the action takes place in the Oval Office. I would call the set design elegance on a budget. It channels the idea of the famous setting without all the unneeded details. Costume design by Alice Gully is also what is needed to convince us these characters are who they say they are.
The play is strangely non-partisan in that liberal and conservative ideas are speared in equal measure. So, whether you lean right or left, you’ll likely hear something that offends you followed closely by something you can revel in.
Cloverdale Performing Arts Center has started this season with a high-energy play full of great performances and clever dialog. Can anyone ask for more?
WARNING: November is not for the kiddies. The expletives are definitely not deleted in this White House.
Running February 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 7:30pm, February 11 and 18at 2pm.
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