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Theatre Review (LA): November by David Mamet at the Mark Taper Forum

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A new play by David Mamet is a theatre even that is highly anticipated. So it was with Mamet’s November currently playing at the Taper. But unlike many of his plays, November is political and funny. It is about a failing president, Charles Smith (Ed Begley Jr.), who is informed by his chief aide (Rod McLachlan) that he will not be reelected. Panic ensues and the play is one long rant by the president about complaints, schemes, and threats with lots of instances of Mamet’s favorite word, f—k. It seems the president is broke and can’t face his wife to tell her of their financial condition. As it is there is no presidential library in sight.

President Smith calls in his sick speechwriter (Felicity Huffman in a delicious turn) to help him as he carries out a scheme to get the representative of the national turkey and turkey byproducts industry (an hilarious Todd Weeks), who is in the waiting room with two turkeys to be pardoned, to raise the ante on the fee for the turkey pardoning. What ensues is pure madness but funny nonetheless. In the process the president tries to get the “pork people” and then some “fish people” to help him declare that turkeys were not served on Thanksgiving but rather pork or fish. As you can tell the whole thing is ridiculous and therein lies the problem. Who can we take seriously? Even Huffman’s character won’t write a speech unless the president marries her, in public, to her lesbian lover.

As it is the play is slight and rather short (80 minutes) but it is fun to see the actors try to get inside the foolishness. Scott Zigler directs and Takeshi Kata has created a terrific set (the Oval Office) in which to place the action. Ed Begley must be given kudos for remembering all those lines (he seems to have half the lines in the play).

November will play at the Mark Taper Forum until November 4.

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