Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Being an election year, this is a propitious time for the Ross Valley Players to trot out NOVEMBER by David Mamet.

True it is only another vicious, rabid, mud-slinging California gubernatorial election and a power-puff Senatorial race, but there is a palpable whiff of byzantine intrigue, testosterone and estrogen in the air.

Parody and satire usual involve hyperbolic exaggerations of the most risible elements of whatever it is the author is trying to lampoon.

In the world of politics, it is difficult to exaggerate the truth.

The unapologetic sale of pardons, the shake-down for bribes (a.k.a. campaign contributions) the grotesque distortions of spin doctors (a.k.a. speech writers and press secretaries), the groveling influence peddling (a.k.a. lobbyists) and the foul, hard-ball language of the rich, powerful and irreverent, all provide the tempera with which Mamet paints a riotous picture of the Presidential Oval Office.

Mamet writes in a language highly reminiscent of the Nixon tapes and Pacino's SCARFACE.

Director James Dunn judiciously cast Buzz Halsing as the Honorable (sic) President Charles Smith.

The tirades and machinations of Buzz’s President Smith keep the audience in paroxysms of laughter from curtain to curtain.

Like most politicians, President Smith adheres to the prime directive of government officials: “Parlay the public’s trust into personal gain.”

President Smith also wants to build a presidential library to chronicle and immortalize both his mediocrity and rapacity.

Money is the only resource that President Smith seems to lack: his reelection war chest sits at $4000 and his library fund could not afford to turn the first spade of soil.

As most reckless people will assure you, “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” and in the absence of moral fiber or ethics, President Smith tries his best to hi-jack America's Thanksgiving dinner, exploring such surrogates as pork and tuna in lieu of turkey.

His speech writer Clarice Bernstein (played by who is undoubtedly Marin’s funniest female comedian: LeAnne Rumbel) hammers out a marvelous denunciation of the traditional Thanksgiving repast; borrowing heavily from the lexicon of exploitation, imperialism, colonialism, chauvinism and liberal guilt.

Her diatribe could have easily done for Thanksgiving what Hollywood’s epic 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE, with Gérard Depardieu did for Columbus Day amongst fatuous Californians.

Stephen Dietz (as Archer Brown) superbly captures the White House Chief of Staff type: officiously distorting, extending and projecting executive privilege to include crimes and misdemeanors.

A stunning set, designed by Ken Rowland and ushered into reality by Ian Swift, adds even more polish to this near flawless production.

Special kudos should be extended to sound man Bruce Vieira for never missing one of the dozens of incoming phone calls to President Smith.

NOVEMBER is intelligent sophisticated humor, lightning paced, unflagging and honed to a razor’s edge.

You will laugh until your lipo suction scars ache.

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