November: You’re What You Own

Photo by Reid Gilman

November by David Mamet, Hovey Players, 11/4/11-11/19/11,  Mature language and themes.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Waltham, MA) Jonathan Larson wrote, “when you’re living in America…you’re what you own…”; this idea is taken to the highest degree in David Mamet’s November.  Hovey Players hits the heartstrings of the nation as it skillfully examines American politics and policy as we struggle to define what a democracy is and what we are willing to sacrifice for that democracy.

Gordon Ellis plays the president, Charles Smith, who bares many similarities to recent monosyllabic named president of the United States (although his wife bares more of a resemblance to Hilary).  Expecting to lose the upcoming election, Smith decides to make some money on his last actions as president–in particular, the pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey.

Bill Stambaugh is the president’s chief advisor Archer Brown.  Mamet has provided Brown with much sardonic wit, but Stambaugh’s performance goes far beyond the page.  Stambaugh acts and reacts from every fiber of his being.  His Chesire Cat smile and sardonic attitude compels the audience to look to him for his unspoken commentary about the situation.

Nick Bennett-Zendzian seems to be a distant relative of William H. Macy both in appearance and personality.  As the representative of the National Association of Turkey and Turkey Products Manufacturers, one can almost see steam begin to pipe out of his ears as the president presses him for more and more money.

Anne Damon plays the president’s speechwriter, Clarice Bernstein.  Clarice can take any idea and spin it the way the president wants it–if she wants to.  Bernstein is the most defined human being of the group.  While everyone is angling for more money and power, she simply desires to have a family.  Damon’s passion infuses her character with an almost naivete that seems out of place in Washington D.C.

This gripping satire reaps continuous laughter throughout the evening.  While (hopefully) completely fictional, the situation does not seem absurd; back-door deal making between the wealthy and the powerful is not even surprising.  The effectiveness of this play lies in its verity.  The biggest flaw of the script is that the ending seems somewhat contrived and sentimental (an abnormal trait for a Mamet play).

Although there are small flaws in the script, Hovey Players provides a professional quality production with community theatre resources.  Strong acting plants fear not of what could happen in government but of what is actually happening in the federal government.  However, anyone touched by the ending will also have their heart stirred to not allow the status quo to win;  while many of us do not own bartering chips of money and power, people with heart and conviction do out-number the current power structure and can at least work towards lessening the abuses of the government officials.  Hovey’s production is timely, effective, and a release for all of the unrest in this country.


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