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Mamet’s “November” is funny, sometimes mean – like our politics

Marcellus Hankins portrays the president of the United States in CityRep’s production of David Mamet’s NOVEMBER. The play was written during the presidency of George W. Bush. Photo Credit Wendy Mutz, Mutz Photography.

by Patrick B. McGuigan

David Mamet’s “November ” is a comedy, but its dialogue is often harsh, even mean, in assessing American leaders.


U.S. President Charles Smith, played by Marcellus Hankins, is foul-mouthed, incompetent and corrupt. His most trusted aide is cynical Archer Brown, played by Steve Emerson as a snarky, competent and corrupt handler.


Willing to give Hankins a personal financial incentive in return for the annual presidential pardon of the national Turkey (make that, in this story, Turkeys) is “the Turkey guy,” portrayed in sometimes slapstick manner by Matthew E. Ellis. Jon Haque, one of our best local performers, is politically incorrect and quite funny as Dwight Grackle, chief of the Micmac people.


Hankins and Brown are certain the president is going to lose the election, just days away, so the chief executive is looking both for personal financial security and maybe, just maybe, a political miracle to rescue him from polling numbers summarized as lower than Gandhi’s cholesterol. Some of the best “characters,” including a disloyal political advisor and a rumor-mongering wife are never seen, but described in Hankins’ salty dialogue.


That brings us to the only noble character in the whole story, Kris Schinske performing as Clarice Bernstein, a lesbian and Hankins’ principal speechwriter. She is the only person onstage who seems to remember the impulses that once infused Hankins’ politics, but even she is willing to distort history and legal precedent for worthy causes – in this tale, reelection and same-sex marriage. She wants to marry her partner, and wants the leader of the free world to perform the ceremony.


Be forwarned that the language is filthy and profane. A wide range of groups, both Left and Right politically, are insulted in the dialogue. Mamet is an award-winning writer unafraid to immerse himself in America’s coarse contemporary culture.


Mamet is not, by default, a comedian. And the first act of the play, written, in 2007, is not terribly funny. However, it deftly sets the stage for later, when things turn amusing and classically outrageous. Viewers will enjoy moments of Shakespearian-style mistaken identity and misunderstood intentions.


This tall tale ends before we know results of the president’s electoral battle, but Hankins has reason to believe an outrageous maneuver might yet rescue his candidacy. In any case, he’ll have money in the bank when everything settles down. Don Jordan directs the proceedings and is, as always, superb in utilizing the confined “City Space” area in the Civic Center basement.


Tickets are $8 for Students, Teachers and Military Personnel (with ID), $20 (groups of eight or more), $30 (matinees) and $35 (evenings). Call the Civic Center Box Office at 405.297.2264 or 1.800.364.7111. Go to the CityRep website at, or the box office website at


The show’s final performances are Friday (September 21) at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday (22), 1:30 p.m. matinee and 7:30 p.m. performance; and Sunday (September 23), 1:30 p.m. matinee.

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