“There are no solutions, just rearrangements of problems.”
So says President Charles Smith in David Mamet’s November, now playing at the Warehouse Theatre. Smith (played by Warehouse executive and artistic director Paul Savas) is no stranger to problems. He’s only days away from an election and his first term has been nothing short of disastrous. His supporters have deserted him, leaving him with no money to set up a presidential library. They’re not even bothering to run any campaign ads for him. The President’s loyal chief of staff, Archer (Brock Koonce), advises him to just go home. A second term is just not going to happen for President Charles Smith.
But then a guy (Jason Adkins) shows up with two turkeys. President Smith is supposed to pardon the birds in advance of Thanksgiving. But Smith begins hatching, on the fly, a plan - a plan that will offer up no real solutions, but will ingeniously rearrange all of Smith’s problems. And maybe, just maybe, Smith will get that second term after all.
November is sort of The West Wing as written by David Mamet. As such, the play is full of profanity, rapid-fire dialogue and lots of laughs. But, a little surprisingly, the play doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of character development. This show is more of an indictment of the state of our current politics than anything else, and as such is an equal opportunity offender. And a blisteringly funny one at that.
Paul Savas is commanding and hilarious as President Smith, rattling off dialogue and drawing out laughs as an admittedly dumb politician. But Smith is also a great game player, and as he finds himself increasingly in the position of having nothing left to lose, he shows himself to be a real winner – a veritable genius at playing the maddening, corrupt and dysfunctional game of politics. It’s a tribute to Savas’ skills that by the end of the evening, we’re almost rooting for this idiot.
Brock Koonce is a breezily efficient Archer, coolly walking his boss through the day’s madcap events. Jason Adkins is a perfect Turkey Guy, strutting around the stage just as his moniker suggests. Anne Tromsness makes a rather one note role much more interesting and endearing than it ought to be (and can play a sneeze for all it’s worth) as the President’s speechwriter. Stephen Boatright makes a late but memorable appearance as Dwight Grackle, and both his entrance and his war cry will stick out in your memory as comic highlights.
Director Jayce T. Tromsness keeps November whipping along as fast as it can go, letting the jokes fly. For a play that is about dialogue more than anything else, Tromsness is able to keep it fresh, engaging and fun to watch. His actors circle around the sharp oval office set, trotting and posturing, at other times sprawled on a couch or tethered to a telephone. But always – always – keeping our attention, drawing us in, keeping us focused on every line.
And always keeping us laughing.