With the country closing in on Election Day, Louisville Repertory Company opens Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet’s presidential election-year farce “November” this week.
“November” opens Friday and runs through Nov. 2 in the Kentucky Center’s MeX Theatre.
In “November,” which opened on Broadway in early 2008, an unpopular, corrupt president faces the countdown to a re-election is he is almost certain to lose—even his wife is planning her post-White House life. A turkey-pardoning incident lights an unlikely fire under the President to try to win back the country.
His earnest speechwriter Bernstein tries her hardest to make him likable, but President Smith is a Mamet character—profane, cynical and cheerfully dismissive of the better angels of our nature.
“There’s a real heart to this show, mostly in the character of Bernstein, who really tries to move the president forward into understanding the heart of America and what America needs,” says director J.R. Stuart. “She gets really close.”
Stuart says the play is about politics, but it doesn’t vote along the two-party system. Though the language is decidedly Mamet (read: rapid-fire, not safe for primetime television), the tone is pure comedy.
“If you’re afraid that it’s some heavy-laden, bureaucratic spin-cycle thing, it is,” he says with a laugh. “But it’s also incredibly hysterical and will not make you crazy about the election cycle.”
Mamet would rather expose the fears Americans have about the political system—that politics is about money and power, not service—and make some jokes at its expense.
“We all need it during the course of this crazy election cycle,” says Stuart. “It is amazingly nonpartisan, it doesn’t hammer either side. It’s just a very amazingly funny take on the political processes that exist today.”
“The way that he gets inside of the American psyche and what we all fear might be going on in the White House, he exposes the way we fear the way the spin might lead,” he adds.
This is Stuart’s first Mamet production, and he says he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to direct one of the great masters of dialog in American theater.
“What’s fascinating with a Mamet script is that usually, there are stage directions: ‘enters here, picks up a phone. ‘ With a Mamet script you get nothing but the dialog,” says Stuart. “So he leaves everything in the hands of the director, and our job is not to get in the way of the words. You let the words do most of the work, because it is so brilliantly written.”