DAVID MAMET’S “NOVEMBER” – West Coast Premiere at A.C.T.

The funny side of Presidential politics now through November 15th

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) continues its ongoing relationship with Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright David Mamet with the West Coast premiere of his presidential farce NOVEMBER, directed by Ron Lagomarsino (The Gamester and The Imaginary Invalid at A.C.T.). Mamet’s over-the-top new comedy comes to A.C.T. fresh from its smash-hit success on Broadway. November offers no mercy in its satirical stab at American politics. Meet President Charles Smith, the most corrupt, inept buffoon ever to sit in the Oval Office. It’s the final days of his bid for a second term, but the country is a mess and his poll numbers are “lower than Gandhi’s cholesterol.” Toss in a lesbian speechwriter longing to marry her sweetheart on national television, a cynical chief of staff, Thanksgiving turkeys awaiting pardon — there’s enough shady backroom scheming to make even a Glengarry Glen Ross con man blush.

Chief of staff, Archer Brown (Anthony Fusco) works out an idea with
President Charles H. P. Smith (Andrew Polk). Photo, Kevin Berne.

November is Mamet’s return to the humorous and absurd side of American politics, following his 1997 movie Wag the Dog, about a president who faked a war to cover up a sex scandal. “It’s not a cynical play,” says Mamet. “I might flatter myself by calling it a populist play, because there’s one polemic going on between the president, who’s unutterably corrupt, and his speechwriter, who’s in his view unutterably naïve. At one point she says to him, ‘People say we’re a country divided, but we’re not a country divided; what we are is a democracy.’ And I think that is the meeting ground of the two positions. That the only country that’s not divided is totalitarian.”

President Charles H. P. Smith (Andrew Polk, right) tries to barter with the Representative of the National Association of Turkey and Turkey By-products Manufacturers (Manoel Felciano) for a higher fee for pardoning turkeys on Thanksgiving. Photo, Kevin Berne.

“Only Mamet could write such a scathing political satire about the pardoning of a turkey,” jokes director Ron Lagomarsino. “What I love about November is that no one escapes unscathed. The president is depicted as venal, cunning, and corrupt, but don’t be fooled. Only the U.S. Constitution comes out smelling like an American Beauty rose—surviving the onslaught of special interest groups and elected officials from both sides of the aisle that are attempting to bend and flex it to suit their own selfish needs.” The timeliness of November’s vision continues to grow since its premiere in 2007, with the recent corruption and personal scandals that have rocked both sides of the aisle, from impeached Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to the ongoing saga of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

Celebrated local designer Erik Flatmo is creating a theatrical replica of the Oval Office, one of America’s most recognizable symbols, on the A.C.T. stage. As is the tradition with each president, the Oval Office for Charles Smith will be personalized for the character and preferences of Mamet’s outrageous creation.

Micmac Chief Dwight Grackle (Steven Anthony Jones) is not happy with
President Smith (Andrew Polk). Photo, Kevin Berne

The cast of A.C.T.’s production of November features Andrew Polk as the tyrannical and helplessly out-of-favor president. Polk received outstanding notices for his appearance in A.C.T.’s last outing with Mamet, Speed-the-Plow. He appears alongside members of A.C.T.’s core acting company, including Anthony Fusco as chief of staff Archer Brown, René Augesen as speechwriter Clarice Bernstein, Steven Anthony Jones as Native American chief Dwight Grackle, and A.C.T.’s newest addition to the core acting company, Manoel Felciano, as the representative of the National Association of Turkey and Turkey Products Manufacturers. Along with Flatmo, the creative team for the show includes costume designer Alex Jaeger, lighting designer Alexander V. Nichols, and sound designer Cliff Caruthers.
Click here for ticket information: NOVEMBER

Thursday, November 5, 2009, at 8 p.m.
In partnership with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, A.C.T. is providing a greener alternative to theater transportation. For each production of the season, A.C.T. will host a Bike to the Theater Night, during which the SFBC will offer free valet bike parking for all patrons who cycle to the theater. Valet bike parking is available one hour prior to showtime. Bicycles will be attended throughout the evening. Patrons are asked to please bring their own locks. For more information, visit: SFBC.

ANDREW POLK and RENÉ AUGESEN (Clarice Bernstein). Photo, Kevin Berne

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.


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