Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mamet + Taper = Political Romp

NOVEMBER by David Mamet

Greeted by a gorgeous replica of the Oval Office, complete with the Great Seal of the United States (the eagle should have had arrows in both claws) by Takeshi Kata, it shows once again that the Mark Taper Forum will not spare the horses when presenting top of the line theatre.  If the set is any indication of the fun to come, the audience is primed for a treat.

David Mamet’s 2008 Broadway hit comes to the Taper with no holds barred. From the first line, the playwright’s biting satire and clever images bring to mind exactly what may be wrong with the way the world works.  President Charles Smith (the wonderfully wonky Ed Begley, Jr.) rants with typical Mamet expletives aided and abetted by the excellent Rod McLachlan as Archer Brown, the President’s Chief of Staff, who matches Begley line for line.

 “Why won’t they vote for me?” 

“Because they all hate you, Chuck!” 

It’s just before the Big Election and President Smith is in big trouble. Not only can he not handle the country nor his blabbermouth wife, nor his brilliant head speech writer, Clarice Bernstein (versatile and facile Felicity Huffman), but there’s trouble with the Turkey Lobby (the bird, not the nation). Unnamed Turkey and Turkey By-Products Manufacturers’ Representative (frenetic Todd Weeks) has arrived at the White House expecting the President to exercise his executive office in the traditional Pardoning of the Turkeys (two Big Birds who must be given an opportunity to smell the President’s hands before the upcoming telecast.)  The chaos ramps up.

Mamet hits a beautiful stride with this farcical romp.  The business of Quid Pro Quo turns the tables on President Smith when he attempts to match wits with a First Nation Leader, Dwight Grackle (Gregory Cruz), who is prepared to build a 4000 room casino on half of Nantucket Island.

About the time Smith gets the Turkey Rep to cave in to his ridiculous demands for two hundred million dollars, another glitch crashes the scene.  It’s pure Mamet and pure comedy. It’s timely and echoes the suspicions that half of the country must have had about the Oval Office for most of the first decade of the 21st century.  Mamet echoes through Clarice, the lesbian speech writer, beautiful sentiments that can only be heard if Smith agrees to marry her and her partner, Daisy.

Director, Scott Zigler, has this cast rolling at first light and it never lets down in the fast paced ninety minutes.  Staging in the wordy show is punctuated with clever physical business that never misses a beat in the dialogue.  Those offended by Mamet’s fast and loose language choices may even find that it sounds natural and funny and appropriate in an Oval Office where decorum has been chucked out the window. 

This is simply brilliant theatre.

By David Mamet
Mark Taper Forum/
Center Theatre Group
Music Center 135 N. Grand
Los Angeles, CA
Tickets:  213 972 7231
$20 - $75.00
Through November 4, 2012
Dark on Monday
Click on photo for full information.

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