Poor Richard Player's production of David Mamet's "November" is a skillfully hysterical staging of a difficult script.
The title refers both to a presidential election and the traditional White House pardon of a turkey at holiday time.
Chief America head honcho Charles P. Smith is frantically trying to figure out a way to gain his footing in the polls, while his attorney Archer Brown (Cory Goble) is equally neurotic in trying to help him.
Mamet at first hits too-familiar notes, but he builds ordinary jokes into an explosive plot that gets more and more enjoyably maniacal.
Director Lysander Abadia, working in a tiny in-the-round stage space, recognizes that much of the humor in this show is in the timing. Even if you didn't understand the words, you'd probably enjoy the rhythms in the way characters verbally (and physically) attack one another. The work of the four cast members seems born of one strong voice.
Benjamin Loewy is a likably loony and almost totally unethical president. His wheeling and dealing brings to mind Orson Welles in "Citizen Kane."
Cory Goble's role as his attorney assistant isn't as flashy, but Goble makes it just as riveting. There's a smooth sincerity in Goble's off-the-wall attempts to save his boss' butt.
Kirstin Maki brings to life a befuddled speechwriter who proves herself much more cunning and loyal than those around her give her credit. It's amazing how three-dimensional Maki makes her potentially goofy character.
And Thom Chrastka inhabits the insanity of two small roles with the ease of a pro. He has dangerous eyes.
I wish Abadia hadn't begun the show with a long and repetitive video of Smith campaigning. The screen is badly placed, and the bit itself overstates the comedy. And Loewy, while a professional-level performer, could use a tad more vocal variety, though I'm in totally sympathy of what he's up against. (His character rarely stops ranting.)
But this is a gem. After seeing a lot of mediocre local stuff in the past few weeks, "November" makes me eager to go to the theater again.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at email@example.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.