Theater Review: "November" At The Mark Taper Forum
The play follows a president, Charles Smith (Ed Begley, Jr), in the week before the election that will determine if he stays in office for a second term. Under dubious advice from his chief-of-staff (Rod McLachlan), the commander in chief becomes embroiled in a series of scandals threatening to erupt, most of which center on Smith's bid for reelection despite a lack of party support, the pardoning of two turkeys for Thanksgiving, and his speechwriter (Felicity Huffman)'s personal life. Unsurprisingly, the three overlap as messily as possible.
Nothing in "November" is bad, so to speak (though some acting moments ventured a tad too far into the land of caricature to stay in line with the rest of the production). Unfortunately, though, little is good enough to really stand out. The play putters along, never really doing much that is unexpected, save when the play establishes itself as a Play About Social Issues about halfway through, an idea that seems to be more used as a crutch than as result of a logical progression of events.
On a technical level, Takeshi Kata's set design and Laura Bauer's costume design do a good job of evoking the atmosphere of autumn in the nation's capital. However, the variation in Josh Epstein's lighting design during the transitions between scenes is confusing and does not draw attention to important moments well.
"November" is an engaging and generally enjoyable play to watch in the moment, but it lacks the kind of permanence that could elevate it into a valuable snapshot of the American political system at the beginning of the 21st century.