SONORA -- Written just five years ago, David Mamet's cynical comedy "November" already seems dated.
The farce, running at Stage 3 Theatre through Oct. 7, centers on a fictional unpopular president trying desperately to make a last-ditch attempt to win an election. One of the big running themes is how daring and politically suicidal it would be for him to support gay marriage. It's hard to relate to that attitude now, with President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party proudly touting their support for letting anyone marry whom they love.
The play is only mildly funny and not particularly innovative. It takes all the usual shots at politicians that they're only in it for the power, they're idiots who don't have any idea what's going on and they'll do or say anything for money. As directed by Richard Kuebler, some of it gets laughs, but a lot of it is just tedious.
Still, some will want to see this show because they are big fans of Mamet, who has accumulated a long list of honors. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1984 play "Glengarry Glen Ross" and received Oscar nominations for his screenplays for 1997's "Wag the Dog" and 1982's "The Verdict."
Michael Crich is perfectly cast as President Charles Smith, one of the worst presidents ever to hold the office. Looking and acting a bit like the Ted Baxter character from the old "Mary Tyler Moore Show," he is pompous and dimwitted. He casually insults nearly every minority group, is more worried about getting his own presidential library than serving the country and nearly starts an international crisis with a lie he tells to get off the phone with his wife.
Mike Moon is engaging as the president's quick-witted adviser, Archer Brown. He organizes the president's life, arranging meetings and gathering facts, no matter how obscure. He tells the president how ridiculous he is, but still does whatever he wants.
Shelley Hodes plays the oddest role in the show as the president's devoted speechwriter. She remains strangely loyal to the chief executive even though he makes her come into work when she is sick, criticizes her sexual orientation as a lesbian and questions her decision to adopt a baby from China. Why she decided to work for him is unexplained. It's also never addressed why she writes the speeches on a vintage typewriter rather than a computer.
Stephen Daly plays the buffoon as a turkey industry representative and Denny Bowen is a hothead as an American Indian leader the president insulted.
The Oval Office set, designed by Rod Cotnam, is outstanding and includes a red carpet with a presidential seal, a presidential photo of Crich and a desk with a jar of jelly beans.
Mamet is famous for his raw, expletive-laden dialogue and this play is no exception. The show is filled with snarky put-downs. There's a lot of cleverness here, but not very much heart.
Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan Renner can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2313.
State 3's 'November'
WHERE: Stage 3 Theatre, 208 S. Green St., Sonora
WHEN: Through Oct. 7; 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays
RUNNING TIME: 1 hour, 48 minutes, including an intermission
TICKETS: $18 Thursdays, $20 Fridays-Sundays, $18 senior Sundays, $12 students any day
INFORMATION: (209) 536-1778
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