Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You'll Be Quoting Daisy's Madhouse's November All the Way Home

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2012 at 11:32 AM

November.jpeg
  • Courtesy daisysmadhouse.org

Instead of music, Daisy's Madhouse plays presidential campaign commercials before the start of its new show, November by David Mamet.

Seeing decades worth of ads back-to-back and how little they've changed in relation to production style and their adherence to truth is a jarring experience. But it sets the stage nicely for what is to come: a deep exploration of the absurdity that American democracy seems mired in.

The play tells the story of Charles Smith, an American president desperate to win reelection. There's only one problem: he's out of campaign cash. So, naturally he turns to blackmailing turkey farmers for $200 million.

It only gets more absurd from there.

Before the show is done, Smith is nearly assassinated, almost starts a nuclear war and an outbreak of bird flu, and wades deep into the politics of gay marriage and Native American casinos.

The show is complete with Mamet's trademark, razor-sharp dialogue.

"She got a girl?" Smith says of his speechwriter's recent adoption of a Chinese baby.

"That's all they sell there," his chief of staff fires back.

But the comedy loses some of its momentum in the second act as the plot drags. In a prime example of art imitating life, the constant escalation of absurdity gets lost in the machinations of politicking.

The show is mostly held together by a single actor: Sean Small, in the role of President Smith. Small bellows and mugs every line as if even his office chatter is delivered from the stump. Even when the show drags, he still makes with the zingers.

But Small is handicapped by a particularly weak performance from Ralph Smith as the lobbyist for the turkey industry, who was stiff and seemed to be smirking to himself between lines. But his is a smaller role that doesn't bring the show down as a whole.

November won't be the best play you see this year, but audience members will likely find themselves quoting it on the way home. November is great fun and a welcome release in the midst of a poisonous election season.

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