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Minnesota State Mankato casts 'November' Ballot with Mamet's Biting Satire

Audience will not know if President Charles Smith is Democrat or Republican

Tanner Kent, Mankato Free Press, 9-16-2012

MANKATO — For those already tired of political rhetoric, this is a different kind of political theater.

Here you can forget the debates and ignore the issues. There are no Romneys or Obamas on this stage — only an ineffectual and bumbling president who finds himself in an absurd political dilemma in Minnesota State University, Mankato Department of Theatre and Dance’s 2012-13 Studio Season premier, “November.”

Written by David Mamet and featuring his trademark political snark and satire, “November” finds Charles Smith with approval ratings “ lower than Ghandi’s cho­lesterol.” In an effort to garner more campaign cash, he attempts to extort an unwitting turkey breeder while also negotiating with a wealthy Native American who wants to buy Nantucket for a casino and his own speechwriter, who wants to trade a crucial speech for a marriage to her les­bian lover. For those weary of partisanship, Mamet’s script remains delightful­ly equitable. The audience will never even know if Smith is a Democrat or Republican.

Rusty Ruth is the second-year MFA directing candidate tasked with directing the performance, which debuts Sept. 19. Ruth said the plot is ridiculous on its face, but masks a certain underlying sense of all-too-true futility highlighted in a remark made to the president by his chief of staff: “ There are no solutions. Only rearrangements of problems.”

Ruth, who has already directed a number of Minnesota State Mankato performances, said he hopes the audience will be able to take more from the performance than a few laughs.

“I think people will appreciate poking fun at political figures,” he said.

“But I’m hoping the audience will be reflective, too.” The role of President Smith is played by Noah Files, a student who typically works as a scene designer but has some performance experience, including a role in the recent production of “Phantom of the Opera.”

Ruth praised Files for his portrayal of the president, and especially his ability to strike the right tone within Mamet’s incisive commentary.

“ That character is really all over the place,” Ruth said, “and Noah is great at finding the right energy levels.”

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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