NOVEMBER Reviewed by Jeff Smith
Reviewed by Jeff Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
Given the mountains of corroborative evidence provided by nearly ten thousand homogenous years of political life on our planet, one might conclude that the most urgent task awaiting anyone who has ascended or descended to public office, is the problem of converting the public trust into vast personal gain.
This whole kleptocratic prestidigitation must be masked by bombastic buffoonery, destiny or divine right, high-blown pomposity and regal posturing.
With sufficient arrogance, even a mediocre politician may thoroughly convince a fatuous public that he or she is entitled to freely loot the public coffers, exercise executive sexual privilege and to extort whatever advantages and gains his or her public office can pry away from the state or the economy.
NOVEMBER by David Mamet, currently being performed by A.C.T., explores the unbridled, unhinged and unapologetic rapacity with which a nominally fictitious American President exploits the highest office in the land.
A simple tradition of pardoning the White House turkey becomes the springboard for first attempting to squeeze a $100,000 donation out of the Turkey Growers of America.
Then the plan escalates to $200 million extortion scheme, before collapsing into a tertiary fall back scam wherein the President deeds most Martha's Vineyard over to an obscure Native American tribe with the proviso that he personally gains half interest in the casino envisioned for what was once a pristine National Seashore Preserve.
As Plato argues in THE REPUBLIC, "he who is willing to serve is unfit to serve."
This paradox is handily demonstrated in this whacky parody of political life inside the Washington beltway.
Some things are difficult parody: divorce, Hollywood, Madison Avenue, politics, TV evangelism, late night TV commercials and professional wrestling being a few.
Parody involves a gross exaggeration or distortion of all that is risible regarding the topic which is to be satirized.
Politics is already a gross exaggeration before it even swaggers up to the election stump.
To parody the traditions set forth by Nixon, Family Bush and Clinton, Mamet has to really push the envelope; at times his comedy works too hard and has too much of an bite.
Maybe Mamet has become a victim of his own success: no one cautions him that his humor, at times, sets the audience's teeth on edge.
Andrew Polk—as the soon to be lame duck president—is the engine of this strenuous comedy.
As the bumbling Charles Smith, his oval office talk, like Nixon tapes, is peppered with racial slurs, homophobia, raw cynicism, opportunism and rabid anti-Semitism.
The parody is so heavy handed at times, that the audience occasionally feels bludgeoned by it.
The play is indisputably funny although it feels like we are indulging Mamet in a way we would not indulge a lesser known playwright.For tickets to comedy bordering on verite call the A.C.T. box office at 415-749-2228 or visit act-sf.org .