BWW Reviews: David Mamet's NOVEMBER at Alley Theatre - Delightfully Politically Incorrect


As election season is approaching and many Americans start yearning to cast their votes, The Alley Theatre spices up the 2012 election season with David Mamet's NOVEMBER. 

Living up to his reputation, David Mamet delivers a script full of four letter words and venomous zingers. Skewering American Politics and political correctness, this absurd comedy is all about President Charles Smith, who hopes to be reelected even if his committee hasn't produced a single TV ad and its already November. Mix in his lackey of an advisor, his speech writer who just happens to be a lesbian who has just retuned from China where she and her partner adopted their baby, a man who just wants the President to pardon his turkey, and an irate Native American chief to bring about chaotic and humorous calamity.

The Alley Theatre's production of David Mamet's NOVEMBER ensures that the audience will laugh the entire way to their polling stations.

Directed by Sanford Robbins, the assembled cast of Alley veterans keeps the show moving with breakneck pacing that elicits everything from smiles to guffaws. Moreover, no member of the cast drops a beat or misses a cue. Utilizing the Nehaus Theatre's ability to be in the round, Sanford Robbins also has each of his actors act to all four seated sections without it seeming awkward or unnatural. Additionally, when pausing for laughter, the casts' facial expressions keep the show moving. These pauses are conveyed more naturally-as if they are nothing more than a believable pause in the conversation while someone catches their breath, thinks about what was said, or tries to figure out what to say next.

Perhaps the biggest star of the show is Jeffrey Bean's prodigious memory. Portraying Charles Smith, quite possibly the most reprehensible president imaginable, Jeffrey Bean delivers each line with clarity and conviction. Whether disparaging the Chinese, Native Americans, women, Jews, Muslims or homosexuals, who he all claims to not be normal people, audiences can't help but like Jeffery Bean's President Smith. Thus, it's truly easy to understand why his advisor says, "Nobody likes you. Go home!" Moreover, Charles Smith as portrayed by Jeffrey Bean has a short fuse that when set off allows Jeffrey Bean to chew scenery in a way that is reminiscent of Nathan Lane while still being original and unique.

Like Jeffrey Bean, Todd Waite as presidential advisor Archer Brown is on stage the entire show. Todd Waite's Archer Brown is a delightful yes-man, lacking common sense and consistently busies himself with keeping his boss happy. Quite possibly the most charming aspect of Todd Waite's performance is that no matter how many times you've seen him play different characters, his performances always have a crisp freshness to them. The audience never feels that he is rehashing a previous character or phoning in his performance. I never get tired of seeing Todd Waite on stage at the Alley, and I feel certain that most of their patrons would agree with me. He is a magnificently skilled character actor, and it is always a pleasure to see him perform.

Elizabeth Bunch's portrayal of Clarice Bernstein is affecting and hilarious. Capturing the starry-eyed, hopeful political schemer and speechwriter with a pen of gold, Elizabeth Bunch radiates with charisma and charm, despite her character's perpetually red, runny nose and downtrodden appearance. Her magnanimous personality also earns the audience's favor and will leave them rooting for her as well.

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David Clarke David Clarke has had a lifelong love and passion for the performing arts, and has been writing about theatre both locally and nationally for years. He joined running their Houston site in early 2012 and began writing as the site's official theatre recording critic in June of 2013.

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