Fittingly, SevenThirty Productions opened a play set in the oval office at election time in an election year. Also, a Thanksgiving themed play on the week of American Thanksgiving. Also, a biting comedic satire written by David Mamet apropos of nothing except laughing at things you know you shouldn’t laugh at.
Should you see it?
The image of the President of the United States is critical to the office. They represent one of the most powerful nations in the world and so have to embody those qualities when seen in public. But behind closed doors? POTUS is just a guy. Stressed, ready to whinge and complain to whomever’s around, and in little control of the crap coming out of his mouth. Just like most of us.
Of course in the case of President Charles Smith, he’s a tool of the bluntest measure with a grudge, bone to pick, or shocking/offensive thing to say about anybody and everybody. From lesbian feminists to Native Americans and the Chinese to Jews and the State of Israel.
Re-election time is upon Smith and he’s pretty much resigned to moving out of White House in a couple weeks, flat-ass broke, unless he can find a way to raise big money or very quickly sway major public opinion. With a scheme leaving the very fate of the turkey holiday hanging in the balance, Smith is sure as hell gonna go down fighting.
If you take life really, really seriously and aren’t able to sit back and laugh at things that would be utterly shocking and offensive in polite company you will not enjoy November. The couple next to me didn’t come back after intermission. But if you’re able to drop the walls and just laugh at life once in a while, there are a lot of laughs to be had in this play.
Four-fifths of the cast in this show are awesome. Todd Duckworth’s President Smith is a phenomenal blowhard delivering some of the most insanely un-PC lines ever written and running a great emotional range from being a woeful and depressed loser to a power-tripping madman trying to extort the entire Turkey industry. He’s a lunatic of the highest degree and his straightjacket comes in the form of his Chief of Staff, played by the equally incredible Steve Martin. Martin’s got delicious timing and plays a wonderful straight man that helps both balance out and enhance Duckworth’s performance.
Doing great work in more supporting roles are Chantale Plante as the lesbian feminist presidential speechwriter who, along with her life partner, recently adopted a baby girl from China and Tom Charlebois as the “Turkey Man” whose day starts off with a seemingly simple job before he’s thrown into what could best be described as a madhouse designed to drive him insane.
Where SevenThirty’s production of November started to lose me was with the appearance of Bruce Sinclair’s Chief Dwight Grackle. Yes, the character is meant to be an offensive Native American stereotype. I wasn’t put off by his being offensive. I was just bored and disappointed. Where there was life behind the eyes of the other four characters, there was none here. The good thing is that he’s only in the last ten minutes of the play. Terribly unfortunate that they’re the climax of the show but the strength of the situation and some great work by the other actors, including one hilarious bit of physical comedy by Steve Martin, save November from falling too far off the high bar the rest of the show set.
You can see November running at The Gladstone now through December 8th. All the details you could want or need, including a video preview and photo gallery are there in our preview article.
What did you think? What line had you laughing hardest or rolling your eyes on the inside? Join the discussion in the comments below or on Twitter under the hash tage #TalkingTheatre.
Photos in this article all taken for Production Ottawa by Production Ottawa photographer David Pasho.