Just when we all need a sense of humor about the elections, Colorado Mountain College presents "November," David Mamet's searing satire about a bombastic, incumbent president desperate for re-election.
The show opens tonight at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs-Spring Valley.
"I love Mamet's intelligence and his courage in storytelling," said Brad Moore, director of the performance and adjunct instructor in CMC's theater program. "He rides a fine line and ultimately insults everyone by pointing out the absurdities of being human."
Gary Ketzenbarger, director of the college's theater program, described the play as "hilariously funny and extremely politically incorrect."
The action takes place six days before a fictional presidential election. Poll numbers for the incumbent are abysmal. He's desperate to find funds to bankroll his re-election.
"His solution revolves around an elaborate bribery scheme involving turkeys," said Ketzenbarger, who portrays the floundering incumbent, Charles Smith.
"He's an amoral man," said Ketzenbarger. "But he's also childlike and innocent. It's a challenge because you want the audience to like him despite his despicable choices."
"The success of the play depends on creating realistic characters and an atmosphere where the audience feels safe to laugh," said Moore. If rehearsals are any indication, the cast is doing something right.
"We spend a lot of rehearsal time laughing," he said.
Nikki Boxer plays Smith's long-suffering speechwriter, Clarice Bernstein. Smith insults her mercilessly, yet she becomes one of his greatest allies.
"We pare down politics to two people," said Boxer, "and that's not how it works. There are all these people whispering in their ears." For Boxer, the play offers an opportunity to look at politics from all sides and to see its inherent contradictions.
Veteran actor Jamie Spry plays the straight man, Archer Brown, the president's right-hand man and sounding board.
"There's a lot of humor in a deadpan character," he said. "You've got this talented, driven guy with a buffoon for a boss." The result is a comedic clash.
Bob Willey tackles the role of Turkey Guy. And, yes, that is his character name in the script.
"I'm going for the humor," said Willey. "Pure and simple."
The play's convoluted bribery scheme, involving the turkey industry, is signature farce and well worth the price of admission.
Nathan Kafka plays Native American Dwight Grackle, who is, in the words of the actor, "the personification of all racial minority stereotypes."
It's Kafka's first role in a small ensemble piece, and he's enjoyed working with a tight group. No stranger to large groups, he is the assistant coordinator of student life at the campus.
Behind the scenes, an all-student team guides the technical aspects of the show.
Jaime Sklavos serves as stage manager, with Graeme Duck as the assistant stage manager. Rose Levy heads up costuming with the help of Meriah Deleon. Shelby Lathrop is master electrician, while Ashley Williford runs the light board and Bella Barnum orchestrates sound.
Shawn Griffith is property master, and Jacob Waldo, Jeremy Doerr, Nick Dyl and Jordan Corzine round out the deck crew. Carpenters Josh Davis, Eldo Vasquez and Paul Meyer helped build the set.
China Clancy, managing director of CMC Theatre, is production manager.