Mamet’s “November” Opens October 20 in Quogue

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Andrew Botsford takes center stage in the Hampton Ballet Theatre's production of "November," opening Thursday, October 20 at the Quogue Community Theater.
Andrew Botsford takes center stage in the Hampton Ballet Theatre's production of "November," opening Thursday, October 20 at the Quogue Community Theater.
Andrew Botsford takes center stage in the Hampton Ballet Theatre’s production of “November,” opening Thursday, October 20 at Quogue Community Hall. Tom Kochie photo

By Dawn Watson

When the selection committee at the Hampton Theatre Company chose David Mamet’s political satire “November” for their season-opening play, they knew they’d be on target time-wise for the upcoming election. But little did they know that the Pulitzer-winning playwright’s ridiculous and over-the-top portrayal of a power-hungry politician who would stop at nothing to win the presidency would actually pale in comparison to real-life events.

Written in 2007—and starring East Hampton’s own Nathan Lane as the President of the United States in the original Broadway version, which was directed by another regularly employed East End talent, Joe Mantello—“November” seems nearly prescient in its take on American politics. The biting satire—starring Andrew Botsford, Matthew Conlon, Rebecca Edana, Rob Byrnes and Matthew O’Connor in the Quogue-based production—explores the lengths that a candidate will go to in order to get and keep the Oval Office.

The plot unfolds in the final week before Election Day, just as the sitting American President (played by Mr. Botsford) has realized that his political career is dead in the water. The veil has been lifted and the American public has finally caught on to his megalomania, misogyny, bigotry and corruption.

With his approval ratings near zero, no money in the coffers, his wife and his chief of staff both with one foot out the door, and a snowball’s chance in hell of redemption or reelection, the power-hungry politician will do anything (anything!) to curry favor and stay in the White House—including pardoning a pair of turkeys—if it will get him votes. The entire situation is absurd, and yet strangely not as shocking as it should be, given the current state of affairs.

“Why would they turn against me now?” the President wails to his Chief of Staff about the American public.

“Because you’ve fucked up everything you’ve touched,” the Chief (played by Mr. Conlon), responds.

“What is it about me that people don’t like?” asks the clueless Commander in Chief.

“That you’re still here,” replies his right-hand man.

The comedy, a rare outing from Mamet, is “vaudeville-meets-current events,” says Hampton Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Diana Marbury. And the tone is scarily spot-on given the political climate.

Opening on Thursday, October 20, and running through November 6, the “politically incorrect satire” takes aim at “just about every hot-button issue of today,” says Ms. Marbury, who is also the production’s director. “It’s amazing how relevant it is to this election.”

“I don’t think anybody believed it was going to happen like this,” the HTC stage veteran adds. “We’re caught in the middle of it all. So at least we’re throwing some comedy into the equation. You’ve got to see the humor in it, otherwise you’d go crazy.”

The laugh-out-loud night at the theater is “almost like a Saturday Night Live sketch,” says Ms. Marbury. Funny is a rare departure for Mamet, best known for his staged dramas, including “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Speed the Plow” and “American Buffalo.” But he has definitely dipped his toe in the miasma of political waters before—most notably the film “Wag the Dog” and in an op-ed piece he wrote for the Village Voice titled “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal’.”

Even though “November” is stark relief to the gravitas of his more serious fare, the playwright’s trademark style—profanity-laden rapid-fire dialogue, characterized by colloquialisms—is still ever present in this show. And just because it’s a comedy, Mamet’s still not pulling any punches in the effort, as evidenced by the beginning of Act II.

“You can’t build the fence to keep out the illegal immigrants,” says the Chief of Staff to the President.

“Why not?” asks the leader of the free world, who is seriously considering doing just that.

“Because you need the illegal immigrants to build the fence,” replies his trusted counsel.

No matter the audiences’ political leanings, the absurdity of “November” is the perfect antidote for those who need a good laugh to take their minds off this year’s silly season, says Ms. Marbury. But be warned, she reports, and remember that it’s a Mamet-penned production, despite it being a comedy.

“Come to the play, leave your political baggage at home,” she says. “And don’t mind the f-bombs.”

The Hampton Theatre Company’s production of “November” by David Mamet will open at the Quogue Community Hall on Thursday, October 20, and stage through November 6. Show times are 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. There will also be an additional matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 5. For tickets and additional information, visit www.hamptontheatre.org or call OvationTix at (866) 811-4111.

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