Wednesday, February 26, 2020

North Coast’s “The Outsider” Tickles, Taunts And Jabs In Political Satire.

Paul Slade Smith’s “The Outsider” currently making a West Coast premiere on North Coast Repertory Theatre’s stage in Solana Beach through March 22nd knocks a triple whammy (as in ‘sock it to me’); hit me over the head, in your face farce.

 It’s also a comedy and a tragedy and satire. You name it. As directed by artistic director David Ellenstein and with some of the best comedic actors San Diego has, along with very little subtlety, and warned by the ushers upon entering the house, “a visit to the loo before the show would be advised because non-stop laughing might lead to peeing your pants, it’s touted as being that funny”.
John Seibert as Ned Newley
Laugh we did, pee our pants, not so much, cry in our boots, almost and nod in agreement that what’s political satire today, could in fact lead to political tragedy tomorrow if the message weren’t so outrageously on target.

Smith wrote the play in 2015 when things weren’t as critical as they are now. The more we enter into the twilight zone of politics 2020 Smith’s political musings become the reality most would like to forget.

(L. To R)
Shana Wride, Christopher M. Williams, Louis Lotorto, John Seibert and Jacque Wilke
Ellenstein’s more than competent cast with the inimitable Jacque Wilke as Louise, who is hired as a temp to answer the phones  (“Just to let you know, phones are not my strongest area.”) is a breath of fresh air as the ever smiling optimistic receptionist who manages to eat all the waiting room candy and then ask it it’s OK? 

Bright lights like Wilke are a must in every production when ‘looking at the bright side’ is a necessity.

The brunt of the political ‘outsider’ in Smith’s play of the same name is the guy not quite ready to step into the shoes of the ‘insider’, a smooth talking governor, who was thrown out of office because of a sex scandal…don’t compare, it takes the fun out of it. No, he’s the polar opposite of the last guy to fall.
John Seibert as Ned and Loius Lorotto as Arthur Vance
Ned Newley (a quirky John Seibert) is/was lieutenant Gov. of his small New England State (Sounds like Vermont by way of references) but is suddenly propelled into the job of now being the head of the state.  He must make an appearance on TV announcing his new job. He is paralyzed at the thought of it and bumbles his way through a three-minute interview and swearing in ceremony that wouldn’t impress the least savvy of voter.  

When the reviews or polls come in by pollster extraordinaire, Paige, (a sharp and comically nimble Shana Wride) on his approval ratings as to his first ever TV appearance, he fails mumbling, stammering and trembling. But good news is in the way in the person of Arthur Vance (Louis Lotorto) a big shot  ‘on CNN every election night.’ He wants to be Ned’s political consultant/ advisor. Lotorto, last seen as Emperor Joseph II in the Rep's "Amadeus", pust in a convincing performance the man in the know of politics.

Dave Riley (an appealing and savvy comic in his own right Christopher M. Williams) who was the sole person on Ned’s staff as Lt. Governor, soon to be Governor, that is until there is a special election making it official, has his doubts about Vance and reluctantly goes with the flow. He invites TV reporter Rachel (an appealing Natalie Storrs) to question Ned but that too goes badly. 
John Seibert, Jacque Wilke, Natalie Storrs and Max Macke (in background) 
Timing, the say, is everything and on that score two things are evident: the timing of the show being produced at this particular junction just as the primaries for 2020 are in the news and are alignment with the sun, moon and stars, so too is the excellent timing of the actors especially when they get into some of the most outrageously hysterical situations. This is where PMP comes in.
John Seibert, Jacque Wilke, Natalie Storrs and Max Macke
Vance tries to persuade the public and Ned’s staff of two that being the ‘outsider’ might just be the way to go to win elections. He dumb’s Ned down to look like a country bumpkin clothes and all, (Elisa Benzoni) and promotes him as a man of and for the people. All this happens on Marty Burnett’s ‘official’ looking and handsome government office looking single set.

Truth will have it, as Ned’s fall and rise in the numbers game, the big surprise is that he’s smarter and sharper than anyone in the room on a one on one as with the TV soundman A.C. Petersen (a tongue tied one note spot on Max Macke) the ‘everyman’ Ned’s consultant’s are counting on.
Christopher M. Williams as Dave and John Seibert is Ned
Smith’s “Outsider” is a romp into the world of political extremes as seen through different lenses as the population shifts from one end of the spectrum to the other. Fortunately Director Ellenstein keeps the pace at elevated speed as we watch the transition of Ned from someone behind the scenes to just what the state needed in the person as, yes, everyman.

With a cast equal to the task everyone on board has their moments but no one will forget Ms. Wilke, whose performance is consistently at a at the top of her game.


See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through March 22nd
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Phone: 858-481-1055
Production Type: Comedy/Satire
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Santa Fe Dr., Suite D, Solana beach, CA
Ticket Prices: Start at $46.00
Photo Credit: Aaron Rumley

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