Venice Theatre's Stage II gets satirical with David Mamet's November.
By Kay Kipling
Those David Mamet fans who head to see his November, currently playing at Venice Theatre’s Stage II, may come away feeling they didn’t get their full Mamet’s worth. While there are some good one-liners and the snap of that usual rapid Mamet dialogue, the evening doesn’t deliver his frequently powerful punch.
The show starts promisingly enough: President Charles Smith (Daniel Greene) is facing the end of his hugely unsuccessful first term in office and bemoaning the fact that no one wants to vote for him in his imminent re-election campaign. “What is it about me people don’t like?” he whines to his aide, Archer Brown (William Czarniak). “That you’re still here,” comes the quick reply.
Smith has more to contend with: a wife who keeps interrupting him with calls on the Oval Office phone, fears that his presidential library—and thus his legacy—won’t ever get off the ground, and the representative of the National Association of Turkey and Turkey By-Products Manufacturers (Paul Mullen) who’s waiting outside his office trying to get his turkeys pardoned for Thanksgiving. Oh, and that’s not to mention his lesbian speechwriter (Candace Artim), who’s both sneezing up a storm after a recent trip to China to adopt an orphan and nagging him to marry her to her life partner, illegal or not.
It all sounds like ripe fodder for political satire, and there some zingers that land. Greene and Czarniak have a good rhythm going with their back-and-forth attempts to find a way to turn a profit amid the chaos, while Artim could use a drier, more sarcastic delivery rather than the rote style she consistently employs.
But in the end November feels like an uncertain mix; you’re never really all that sure exactly how you’re supposed to feel about any of these people. Are they just buffoons? Or are we supposed to feel a sneaking sympathy in the end for the president, who may not be quite as bad as he seems? (Lest you think he’s a stand-in for a certain recent inhabitant of the White House, recorded quotes from other previous office holders before the curtain and before Act II remind us that they’ve all had feet of clay).
One aspect of the production that impresses is the set by Donna Buckalter, which convincingly represents the Oval Office (the audience sits in the round on the other side of a red velvet rope), complete with flags, rug, family photos, historic paintings and all the telephone paraphernalia you’d expect. It’s also a nice touch that audience members enter through a security setup like those at any airport; you may find yourself setting off the detector.
November continues through Nov. 15; call 488-1115 or visit venicestage.com.