Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
This is not a play about Donald Trump.
Nicholas Ballas wants to make that clear. David Mamet’s “November,” an Oval Office farce that he’s directing for the New Mexico Actor’s Lab, debuted on Broadway in 2008 – meaning it was conceptualized long before today’s crazy political scene emerged.
But Ballas does say there are similarities that exist between Mamet’s fiction and today’s non-fiction.
“Here you have this president that seems to be driven by personal need, the need for affirmation, somewhat the need for power,” he said. “He doesn’t understand why people don’t like him. Gosh, doesn’t that sound familiar?”
“November” follows President Charles “Chuck” Smith as, about a week before election day, he and his cabinet attempt a “Hail Mary pass” to get him re-elected. The play is at Teatro Paraguas through Aug. 19.
When the story begins, the president is predicted to lose terribly and his political party – the play never specifies which one – has pulled all of its funding from his campaign. Still, “he becomes impassioned with the idea of potentially winning,” said Ballas.
“He starts pulling out all the stops to find his way to that. He’s a pretty funny guy. His inner and his external monologues are wonderful displays of ego, power, conniving, deal-making and manipulation on display. He’s covering many bases.”
President Smith needs money, and all the drama is happening around the same time he’s supposed to be preparing his annual turkey pardon for Thanksgiving. Aided by his Chief of Staff Archer Brown and his speech writer Clarice Bernstein, Smith tries to negotiate with the turkey suppliers to get what he wants.
Another thread of the play involves cutting a deal with an East Coast Native American tribe over casino licensing.
“The lengths they go to, to get what they want, the lengths that the people in power will go to, to stay in power, to get what they want, is farcical,” Geoffrey Pomeroy, who portrays chief of staff Brown, said of the play’s commentary. “I think that’s what Mamet must believe. Because that’s what he’s doing in this play.”
Ballas warns that this play is extremely irreverent and “not PC.” Through the characters, Ballas said, Mamet “manages to offend all groups, or many groups.”
“He’s merciless in his satire,” Ballas said. “It’s not for the faint of heart or for the thin-skinned.”
The play also stars Robert Nott as President Smith, Jody Durham as Bernstein, Campbell Martin as the turkey association representative and Frederick Lopez as Chief Dwight Grackle.
Political farce takes center stage