Wednesday, January 23, 2008

David Mamet's November

The most delightful thing about David Mamet's sprightly political satire now showing on Broadway is his gift of language. I want to buy the print edition of the play to be able to relish, not so much the one liners, but his verbal panache, his exquisite gift as a superb renderer of incredibly funny politically incorrect slurs, among other things. The evening - and the dialogue - goes real fast in Joe Mantello's energetic direction, and thankfully the torrent of words does not sound like a typically stilted Mamet telegram, although there is a great abundance of wonderfully placed "fucks" and all its permutations. If Pinter is the master of the pause, then Mamet is the undisputed genius of the "fuck" and I say this with unending admiration.
The cast is a bunch of fabulous pros: the irrepressible Nathan Lane (doing an impersonation of the irrepressible Nathan Lane pretending to be the President of the US), the great Dylan Baker, as his loyal and crafty Karlrovian attorney, and the great Laurie Metcalf as his Jewish Lesbian speechwriter. She does deliver the most convincing portrayal of a woman with a terrible cold ever seen.
Nathan Lane, is as always, a hoot, doing what he does best, which is to be a human paragon of perfect comic timing, plus some shticky scenery chewing that is hilarious, nonetheless. My main concern was that not in a million years could anybody believe Nathan Lane as the President of the United States. And you don't, but it helps that the tone of the staging is not one that strives for meticulous realism, and Lane goes to town in his Oval Office, which by the way, looks great.
As I was listening to the words I was thinking what other more presidential actor could play this role. I am convinced that with someone else in the title role; someone more ominous, less sunny, more darkly stupid (kind of like who is occupying the White House right now) the play could be a more bitter satire. The discontent is certainly there. But this production is intended to elicit big laughter, and that is a job for Nathan Lane.
The play is barbed, but slight, and it merrily shows the venality and corruption of politics in American with great gusto. I knew Mr. Mamet is funny because even in his serious plays the humor is very sharp, but I didn't know he had it in him to do farce with such flair.

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