Campy, slapstick comedy in ‘November’ at Providence Players of Fairfax

The season-opener satire by David Mamet is not far removed from the political climate of today.

The Providence Players of Fairfax have chosen a very timely comedic play to open their 2022/23 season: David Mamet’s November. Directed by Jayne L. Victor, the show has musical numbers interspersed throughout its three acts. John Smith, music design, and Thomas Udlock, sound design, deserve the credit for helping with these upbeat and complementary numbers.

The play opens in the Oval Office with the president, Charles Smith, played with grit and acerbic humor by Michael Donahue, and his advisor, Archer Brown, played by Matthew Randall. Archer oversees his boss with a balancing act of frustration and loyalty. Charles is days away from his second election and his chances for re-election are growing slim. The play captures the campiness of Charles interacting with his wife and campaign fellows with hilarious humor.

Kat Sanchez as Clarice Bernstein, Michael Donahue as Charles Smith, and Matthew Randall as Archer Brown in ‘November.’ Photo by Chip Gertzog.

This play premiered on Broadway in 2008 starring Nathan Lane and featuring Laurie Metcalf, who received a Tony award nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Play. Additionally, the play was part of a reading in 2020 to benefit the Actors Fund of America during the COVID-19 pandemic, featuring John Malkovich and Patti LuPone.

There’s a warning that the play contains strong language and adult content, but it all adds to the outrageousness and desperation of a president going to any lengths to get re-elected—not far removed from the political climate of today. President Smith’s speechwriter, Clarice Bernstein, played convincingly well by Kat Sanchez, is summoned back from her time off adopting a baby from China. I loved the evolution of her character, which you will be blessed with in Act III. She presents a dilemma for her boss that is hard for him to wiggle out of.

The president also needs to pardon a couple of turkeys. The plan he concocts with the representative of the National Association of Turkey and Turkey Products Manufacturers, hilariously played by David Whitehead, is a last-minute self-concocted scheme to finance his re-election bid. There is some banter with the Native American leader Dwight Grackle, humorously played by Mario Font. There is no political correctness in this play, so be prepared for issues tackled in 2007 (when the play was written). The director mentioned that each of us will laugh at the content we find funny and that is the beauty of this play. It is tongue-in-cheek and will have you identifying with the times of today. The issue of marriage between same-sex partners will give you pause. It will remind you of the journey of America to recognize same-sex marriage as legal, how we have evolved today, and how that legality is now being jeopardized.

Michael Donahue as Charles Smith, David Whitehead as the Turkey Guy, and Matthew Randall as Archer Brown in ‘November.’ Photo by Chip Gertzog.

The set design by John Coscia was very representative of the Oval Office. I loved the voting booth at the entrance of the theater, and the campaign stickers handed out by the wonderful ushers before the show.

Michael Donahue as Charles Smith, Kat Sanchez as Clarice Bernstein, and Matthew Randall as Archer Brown in ‘November.’ Photo by Chip Gertzog.

Overall, I enjoyed the campiness and slapstick comedy of this play. Michael Donahue is such a good actor that he helped with the pacing of the content. There were times that it moved a little slow for me, but the content kept me on my toes. Act III was a showstopper worth building up to.

This was my first attendance at a Providence Players of Fairfax show, and I look forward to returning. Kudos to all involved for an entertaining production.

Running Time: One hour 45 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.

November plays through October 29, 2022, presented by Providence Players of Fairfax performing at the James Lee Community Center, 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church, VA (Thursday – Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sunday at 2:00 pm). Tickets ($21 adult, $18 seniors and students with ID) are available online, by email (tickets@providenceplayers.org) or voicemail (703-425-6782), or at the box office 30 minutes prior to the show.

COVID Safety:  All cast and crew have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and patrons are encouraged to be vaccinated to help protect the Providence Players actors, crew members, and other patrons. Masks are no longer required to attend productions at James Lee Community Center.

Lighting Design:  Emerson Bennett
Costume Design:  Tracey Froelich
Hair/Makeup:  Robbie Snow

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Linda Kinney is a licensed psychotherapist in the NOVA area, with a strong addictions background. She holds an undergraduate degree in Social Work from George Mason University and a graduate degree in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. She was in her college chorus and has been told she can carry a tune. She loves the theater and all of the beautiful community members she has met. Her daughter, Caroline, a recent graduate of the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, started pursuing voice, acting, and dance at a young age, and attending performances became a beloved pastime to this day. Linda currently lives in Leesburg, Virginia, with her husband, Patrick, and daughter, Caroline.

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