As a long time season subscriber to the Mark Taper Forum, I have come to expect to a high level of quality productions, with the occasional clunker and the occasional show that completely blows me away. The Taper's new production of David Mamet's 2007 political satire, November, fell on the lower end of the spectrum.
The cast was great and there was nothing actually wrong with the production. I think the lackluster nature of the show fell on the writing. I love Mamet, he's a great writer, but this isn't his strongest piece of work. It is obvious that the Taper added it to the season to tie in with the presidential election, but they should have abandoned that idea and gone with a stronger production.
It's not an outright awful show. I did laugh many times and never found it dull. It just wasn't a production that I would want to recommend to a friend. It was okay.
The best part of the production was the performance of Ed Begley Jr., as a president so unpopular that he is crazy with desperation as he attempts to find a way to win a second term. Begley is hilarious. The best bits are his long ranting monologues and naïve one-liners. My favorite part in the show was when he throws out the idea of declaring an "Opposite Day" so that he can justify granting a marriage to a lesbian couple. Hilarious.
His character is so egotistical that he truly believes that he can say and do whatever he wants with impunity. Felicity Huffman is great opposite Begley, as his speech writer with her own agenda. The play is one big power struggle, as all of the characters realize ways to beat the president at his own game.
Mamet wrote this play as a farce, which I don't feel strengthened the story. It got very outlandish and silly as it progressed. The funniest parts are early on, before it begins to crumble. It would have been a funnier play, if it had been less of a farce and less obvious in it's themes. I kept waiting for a good twist that never came. It felt like Mamet was playing it safe with this one.